Benton Health Services leads in trauma-informed care training

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Friday, February 8, 2019

There’s a new model in medicine recognizing the connection between traumatic experiences and negative health outcomes that’s changing how health services are provided.

And Benton County Health Services has positioned itself at the leading edge of this trend by training staff and others in the community about the impacts of trauma and how to improve outcomes for people who have experienced it.

Kelly Locey, a program coordinator with the Health Department, helped bring a plan for the care model forward. She said Benton County’s work around trauma-informed care began in 2016 with an internal needs assessment. That was followed by internal trainings at Health Services staff meetings, and community trainings, which were open to anyone interested in becoming trauma-informed.

Locey said the county’s coordination with community partners is something to be proud of.

“Our work within the region has really helped us to be in a good spot,” Locey said. “There’s not a significant number of organizations that have done this level of intensity of work.”

Community participants have included a variety of social service and health care providers, agencies, educators, and community members from Corvallis, Albany, Philomath, Lebanon, Kings Valley, Waldport, Jefferson, McMinnville, Salem, Eugene, Portland, Oregon City.

One of the community trainings have been bilingual/bicultural in Spanish. Benton County’s approach of using culturally informed training was highlighted in a recent newsletter of Trauma Informed Oregon that promotes best practices.

Benton County plans to continue community trainings. Already, the Benton County trauma informed work has provided resources and education to more than 200 people, and there is continued effort to ensure that all county health services staff receive ongoing training.

The final step in the first phase of the trauma-informed care plan was identifying areas for improvement in policies and practices by collecting input from patients and staff. Based on more than 300 responses, Health Services identified five areas of focus and developed goals to address these concerns.

The trauma-informed care planning team made recommendations to improve the safety of patients and staff, make changes to the physical environment reflected in the health services building remodel, smooth out staffing inconsistencies and improve availability and access to care through scheduling.

And the work is ongoing. A five-year action plan was adopted earlier this month, calling for the Health Department to continue its collaboration with Trauma Informed Oregon and to evaluate and improve internal processes.

“We are committed to being more trauma-informed as an agency,” Locey said. “There is a lot left to do, and we’re working to be even better.”