Blythedale Brings Trauma-Informed Care to Westchester County

For children, young people, and adults exposed to the collective trauma and stresses of the COVID-19 crisis, there’s an urgent need to utilize universal precautions that can help and heal not only individual lives, but also make an impact on an organizational and systemic level.

As a way to provide this much-needed resource to the community, Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York is serving as the clinical leader and sponsor of Westchester County’s first-ever Trauma-Informed Systems’ Change Learning Collaborative, facilitated by University at Buffalo’s Institute on Trauma & Trauma-Informed Care (ITTIC).

This training is made possible through a generous grant from Kohl’s Department Stores and its Kohl’s Cares program. Kohl’s has supported vitally important community programs at Blythedale since 2000, donating nearly $3 million.

“We are proud to bring together such an important cohort of community leaders to improve not only the provision of care at our individual organizations, but to bring about systemic change within our community,” said Blythedale Children’s Hospital President & CEO Larry Levine. “At Blythedale, we are caring for an extremely vulnerable population and the pandemic has only amplified the challenges our families face. It is only logical that we would support such an important initiative.” 

Trauma-Informed Care is an approach that shifts thinking from “what’s wrong with you” to “what’s happened to you” in order to understand the nature and potential impacts of trauma.

The Blythedale/ITTIC training program is six-months (March to August) of customizable training to help organizations and communities transition towards trauma-informed care. While this training typically takes place in person, due to the pandemic, participants are gathering monthly via Zoom.  Five guiding principles serve as the backbone of administrative and service related modifications:

  1. Safety: Ensure physical and emotional safety for clients and staff.
  2. Trustworthiness: Maximize trust, ensure clear expectations and consistent boundaries.
  3. Choice: Strengthen staff and client experiences of choice and control.
  4. Collaboration: Partnership and power-sharing between staff and clients, as well as among organizational staff.
  5. Empowerment: Prioritize validating and building on individual strengths and skills.

Participating in this inaugural program are 37 “Champions”, comprised of mostly senior-level leadership from 24 different organizations in Westchester and Rockland Counties, including:

  • Blythedale Children’s Hospital                                                     
  • Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health
  • Westchester County Department of Social Services
  • MHA of Westchester                          
  • Westchester Library System
  • My Sister’s Place
  • Sister to Sister International, Inc.
  • WJCS
  • Greenburgh Eleven UFSD
  • Hendrick Hudson School District
  • Ossining School District
  • Public Schools of the Tarrytowns
  • Nyack Public Schools
  • Sleepy Hollow Middle School
  • St. Vincent’s Westchester
  • Westchester Institute for Human Development
  • White Plains Youth Bureau
  • YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester
  • Family Ties of Westchester, Inc.
  • Guidance Center of Westchester, Inc.
  • Human Development Services of Westchester
  • Mount Pleasant Cottage School
  • Open Door Family Medical Center
  • Student Assistance Services Corporation

“We hope the guidance and support of this collaborative workgroup will be impactful and have strong reverberations,” said Marie Roth, MA, RDN, NBC-HWC, ACTP, the Director of Curriculum for the Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Eat Well, Be Well Community Wellness Program. “When organizations across multiple counties move in the same direction, we can expect a deep ripple effect that brings better experiences and outcomes for staff, patients and communities.”

“The last 14-months have been emotional, stressful and potentially traumatic. These Champions, coming from cornerstone community spaces, will work to enliven a trauma-informed approach and provide a framework to help set the stage for healing, resilience and growth in Westchester County and beyond,” said Whitney L. Marris, LMSW, Project Manager at The Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care, Buffalo Center for Social Research, University at Buffalo School of Social Work. 

“Many of us in Westchester have increasingly come to realize the pivotal role of trauma in social determinants of health, racism, physical health and emotional wellness that brings a renewed sense of urgency to take real and meaningful action that fundamentally changes how our systems operate,” said Andrew Bell, Ph.D., Program Director, Community Support Services, Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health.  “This Learning Collaborative has come just in time to help us tackle this daunting task together.  Blythedale’s leadership and vision will allow us to create a comprehensive blueprint that will serve us for years to come.”