Sonoma’s Hanna Institute awarded $650k grant
After the October fires, the Community Foundation of Sonoma County co-sponsored a survey of local nonprofit organizations to gauge the effect that the disaster had on the people they serve and their organizational capacity to provide services in response.
Throughout the “2018 Wildfire Response Survey,” mental health was consistently cited among the top three impacts of the wildfires.
Since 2016, the Hanna Institute, a program based at the Hanna Boys Center on Arnold Drive, has trained professionals from schools and organizations that work with at-risk youth on how to use the trauma-informed care practices that have become a hallmark at the residential treatment center on Arnold Drive.
That expertise is now being applied to the unique challenge of supporting the social-emotional well-being of fire survivors.
Thanks to a new two-year $650,000 grant from the San Francisco-based Tipping Point Community, the Institute is poised to emerge as the leader in trauma-informed care training in Northern California, with a specific focus on fire survivors.
Through a partnership with the International Trauma Center, the Institute had already been offering training, events and outreach. The new grant will support “a strategic collaborative” of Sonoma Valley organizations who serve residents still struggling with the impact of the wildfires. “Trauma-informed care” is based upon the concept that children who’ve experienced “traumatic” events require precise and particular treatments to thrive. Known in trauma-care circles as “Adverse Childhood Experience,” or ACE, these early life traumas comprise a rubric of mental and physical health stressors that trigger a wide range of problems through a person’s life.
Prior to the fires, Hanna Institute staffers estimated that there were tens of thousands of kids with very high ACE exposure in Sonoma County – and that number has now increased significantly. Studies have shown that children who experience significant childhood trauma become adults with higher risk for suicide, depression, substance abuse and a host of other types of long-term impacts.
The San Francisco-based grant powerhouse Tipping Point provides funding to Bay Area nonprofits focused on education, employment, housing and early childhood issues. It recently made front-page news for its first major endeavor with the public sector, committing $100 million to cut chronic homelessness in San Francisco in half by 2022. The initiative, in partnership with the City and County of San Francisco, aims to create housing, improve public systems like criminal justice and child welfare to reduce the rate of homelessness, and help the city leverage more state and federal funding.
In its most recent donation cycle, Tipping Point raised $25 million from donors, 100 percent of which went out as grants. Its board is composed of well-known Bay Area philanthropists – among them are San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, former 49er Ronnie Lott, Lloyd Dean of Dignity Health and David Dolby of Dolby Laboratories – who underwrite Tipping Point’s fundraising and operating costs.
The Tipping Point grant will allow the Hanna Institute, in partnership with the International Trauma Center, a Boston-based nonprofit and early proponent of trauma-informed care, to serve as both a think-tank on trauma-informed community support and to lead the collaboration between the local organizations that are supporting fire survivors, from school sites and mental health providers to children’s homes and emergency shelters.
This collaborative will operate over the next two years, and Institute staffers are currently in the stage of reaching out to invite all Sonoma Valley organizations to participate and conduct a needs assessment.
“While much of the North Bay is busy rebuilding homes and businesses lost to the fires, the full effects of the trauma from this event are only now starting to be felt,” said Hanna Institute acting director and HBC CEO Brian Farragher. “And remember, many parts of Sonoma County were already suffering from high levels of toxic stress and adversity, which the fires just exacerbated. The Tipping Point grant will allow the Hanna Institute to play a key role in restoring the mental health and functionality of tens of thousands of North Bay residents impacted by this tragedy.”
Dr. Robert Macy, CEO of the International Trauma Center, shared Farragher’s sentiment, “As enormous as the physical loss from the fires was, it’s nothing compared to the hidden but devastating psychological damage done to those living in the area. My hat is off to Tipping Point, which truly understands all this and is willing to make significant investments in the long-term mental health and stability of the community.”
Macy has a long career in trauma-informed care. He is a founding member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and he is senior response member for the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Technical Assistance Center.
As the Hanna Institute prepares to expand its outreach, its search for a permanent director has been kicked into high gear. Its previous executive director, Mary Kelly Persyn, left in March after two years in the job. Its assistant director is a familiar face to local theater fans: former Transcendence performer Nick Dalton was named to a leadership role in the organization last year. Dalton was formerly a teaching artist for the nonprofit Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), where he focused primarily on teacher training in refugee, low-income, and oppressed communities. He also currently co-chairs the Sonoma County ACEs Connection.
Macy and his team specialize in stabilizing communities in crisis. He has dedicated his career to studying the best practices in the science of helping communities worldwide after they are hit by a devastating natural disaster, ethnic cleansing or terrorist attack. In particular, he referenced his work with Indonesian communities after the 2004 tsunami.
“Two or three years after a disaster like this can be the hardest time, when compassion fatigue sets in and stress reaches toxic levels,” he said. “But there are protocols and interventions that work and we can help schools, organizations and care givers to follow through on the science.”
He particularly stressed the need for communities to take charge of their own recovery.
“There is a valuable sense of efficacy when you develop skills for personal resilience and the means to take care of yourself after a disaster,” he said. “Because of course it can happen again.”
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