BHCHP creates new roles to help address trauma among staff and patients

Here at BHCHP we rely on the ability to pivot quickly to address new challenges faced by our patients and staff. The COVID-19 pandemic and the anxiety and stress it has produced, continues to reveal an increasing need for trauma and behavioral health services. As such, we are glad to announce two new Director roles, the program-wide Director of Trauma Services and Director of Behavioral Health Services for our Barbara McInnis House (BMH) respite care.

Samantha "Sam" Ciarocco, MSW (pictured above, masked), Clinical Operations Manager for our Office-Based Addiction Treatment team (OBAT) will begin as the Director of Trauma Services in November. In this role, Sam will work with our staff to address their primary, secondary, and vicarious trauma that they are exposed to while caring for our struggling patients. Their experience of homelessness, violence on the streets, lack of access to personal hygiene and instability are continuously traumatizing. For our staff, hearing trauma stories and accompanying patients through their pain, fear and terror can be emotionally debilitating. By creating this position, we are hopeful that addressing trauma will become part of our work lives and our everyday conversation among our teams. Our staff is so courageous and compassionate in their work, but trauma can be exhausting and unhealthy. Having a space to deal with trauma is essential for providers to be able to provide the best care possible to our patients who face trauma frequently.

In this role Sam will be working with several internal BHCHP committees including the Equity and Social Justice Committee, the Emergency Preparedness and Safety Task Force and the Women’s Health Initiative. She will work to ensure BHCHP policies and practices are aligned with trauma informed care and resiliency building principles. Sam will develop and facilitate trainings for all staff that will focus on trauma informed best practices and the social consequences of trauma exposure. This will include trainings for supervisors an managers aimed at recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma response in their staff and determining appropriate supports. She will also work to limit staff’s trauma exposure in the workplace and provide consistent trauma-informed supervision to teams that are at increased risk. She will also act as a clinical supervision/debrief for staff after critical incidents that occur in the workplace or in the community as needed.

The BMH Director of Behavioral Health Services role addresses the need for dedicated behavioral health for our patients in our Barbara McInnis House respite program and reinforces our trauma informed care for our patients. Georgia Thomas LMHC, LADC (pictured above, left, with a patient prior to the pandemic) former Director of our Family Team, has stepped into this role to provide additional training, employ trauma-informed de-escalation strategies, and 1:1 mental health patient support in our McInnis House. The struggles of homelessness, substance use disorders, daily trauma, and mental illness each have their own complexities and stigma and the confluence and complications attendant to these issues are common among our patients. Georgia’s extensive mental health counseling background will foster empathy, well-being, connection, and a safe place for our respite patients while they are recovering from a recent hospital treatment or are too physically ill to return to the shelters or streets.

We are grateful that Georgia and Sam are sharing their brilliance and expertise with our program and our patients. We will continue to pivot and create essential policies and practices to keep our patients and staff healthy and strong.

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