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Pennsylvania Seeks Volunteer Think Tank Members to Set Guidelines for ‘Trauma-Informed PA’

January 30, 2020

As a companion to Pennsylvania’s multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign, Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters, Governor Tom Wolf announced today that The Office of Advocacy and Reform is looking for a group of cutting-edge thinkers and practitioners in the field of trauma, and how the brain heals from its effects, to form a think tank. This volunteer group will focus exclusively on setting guidelines and benchmarks for trauma-informed care across the commonwealth.

“A think tank is a creative approach aimed at gathering insight and expertise to expand resources and the state’s comprehensive support of mental health and related health care priorities in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “Trauma-informed care needs to be included in the narrative about comprehensive mental wellness services and supports, so the development of this think tank is appropriate and exciting.”

“In my experience, trauma-informed approaches can be all over the map,” said Dan Jurman, Executive Director of the Office of Advocacy and Reform, “The first step in becoming a trauma-informed state is very clearly defining what we mean when we say ‘trauma-informed.’ If we don’t, then it just becomes another cliché buzz word that doesn’t move our practice and force us to have the hard conversations about how to better serve vulnerable citizens.”

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and released in August 2019, half of all Pennsylvanians have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience, 19% have experienced three or more, and 38% of all Pennsylvanians have experienced either emotional or physical abuse as a child. These traumas can affect the mental health of those who suffered from them for many years if not treated with the appropriate trauma-informed approach.

Resumes and interviews will be required to apply for a place on this think tank. While the Office has left room for some flexibility, it plans to fill the 10 seats with leading experts in the fields of psychology, neurology/neurobiology, medicine, public health, education, social work, domestic violence, mindfullness, and substance use disorder/addiction.

Interested experts in the fields mentioned above should email their resumes to djurman@pa.gov by 5:00 pm Friday, February 14. Interviews will be conducted by phone or in person in the weeks that follow with the hope of a first think tank meeting in March to begin work.

The first three months the group is together will involve frequent meetings to set standards for the state that can guide the work of state agencies as well as local government and nonprofit organizations across the commonwealth. Subsequently, those who wish to continue serving will shift to more of an advisory council role, helping the Office of Advocacy and Reform build a network of trauma-informed providers who learn from each other, support pilots and innovation, share best practices, and push the initial guidelines even further over time as our understanding of brain science and trauma-informed approaches evolves and broadens.

“Those who aren’t chosen for this initial group will still be welcome to participate as we roll out our plan to become a Trauma-Informed State,” Jurman said. “Our ability to become effective at responding to and treating trauma is going to be dependent on our ability to grow a broad, grassroots movement across the state. That movement must be anchored and led by smart, passionate people who help us build a network that can create real, lasting change. The people we serve are looking to us to do better. We’re going to need to come together with one voice to give them the kind of respectful, effective care they need and deserve.”

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