Program aims to instill trauma-informed practices in rural North Carolina / Public Press Service

Starting this month, a leadership program in rural North Carolina is helping local organizations implement trauma-informed practices.

The organizers of the Resilient Leaders Initiative explained that their goal is to help residents address the root cause of ailment and promote healing.

According to the Center for Healthcare Strategies, a trauma-informed approach includes understanding how traumatic experiences such as abuse and neglect, displacement following natural disasters, and community violence affect physical and mental health.

Vichi Jagannathan, program director for the Resilient Leaders Initiative and co-founder of the Rural Opportunity Institute, said policies to address trauma may be different in rural areas.

“Even when we try to see what trauma-informed discipline or policing looks like, quite often the solutions we find don’t quite work in our context because of our unique challenges,” said stressed Jagannathan. “Part of the goal is to help organizations develop new practices.”

Last year, Edgecombe and Wilson County Public Schools, Word Tabernacle Church’s Pre-K Program and Greater is Coming Ministries participated in the program’s first cohort. According to a study by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, more than half of North Carolina residents report experiencing some form of childhood trauma.

Jagannathan noted that the COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on the importance of promoting resilience and healing, especially as communities and local economies struggle to recover from the pandemic.

“We just know that we are not the only rural community that suffers from these kinds of challenges,” Jagannathan stressed. “But there’s just no knowledge base and there’s certainly no network where we all share what works.”

She added that there are resources available for rural groups looking to incorporate a trauma-informed approach into their daily work.

“We have the ability to just offer coaching,” Jagannathan pointed out, “So even if they can’t go through this nine-month process that’s about to start, there are opportunities to connect with a network of coaches across the country who have expertise in this area.”

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Ryan H. Bowman