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.
Daniel Lurie, CEO and founder, Tipping Point Community
What aspect of the Hanna grant request was most compelling to Tipping Point?
Research shows that people who were exposed to traumatic events like the fires will likely have increased distress and related psychological symptoms 24-36 months following the trauma if they do not receive consistent treatment. Without support, this has the potential to create long-term impacts such as joblessness and medical complications due to prolonged PTSD.
The grant given to the Hanna Institute and the International Trauma Center provides a strategic and integrated mental and behavioral health intervention for disaster trauma recovery over the next two years. The Hanna Institute is uniquely positioned to assess students and other high-risk populations, and provide them with interventions and referrals based on the severity of the need.
What we liked most is Hanna’s credibility as an expert in trauma-informed care, and the collaborative “train the trainer” model wherein they will educate and train practitioners throughout the region to maximize reach. For example, capacity building and coaching will be provided to medical and behavioral health professionals, school counselors, and clinicians. These include partnerships with the Sonoma County Office of Education, the Redwood Community Health Centers, the Sonoma Valley Community Mental Health Center, Sonoma Valley Health Clinic, and others.
We also liked that the program will have a primary focus in the Sonoma Valley, given the great need in that area. Poverty rates are still high, specifically families with children and the Hispanic population. Almost 20 percent of families with children throughout Sonoma Valley live in poverty, a 7.2 percentage point increase in the last five years. Residents are geographically isolated from services in Santa Rosa and have very limited access to health care, especially mental health services.
What other similar trauma support or wildfire survivor support programs has Tipping Point funded?
Tipping Point has an established model of investing in programs that work at the intersection of poverty and mental health. Four of the six most recent Emergency Relief Fund grants ($2.3M total) went to mental health.
How will Tipping Point measure the success or effectiveness of Hanna’s wildfire survivor programs?
As with all grants, we ask for basic reporting summarizing three things: 1) number of people reached, 2) services provided, and 3) impact achieved. In addition, we will leverage our in-house team of data analysts to collect and monitor data over the coming year, with this grant and all others.