TIS 101 Goes to Seattle

Event, News, Trauma-Informed Systems

The only thing I ever knew of the upper northwest was that it was partially responsible for my obsession with wearing a flannel around my waist for my entire sophomore and junior years of high school.  Entire.  Years.  So I was ecstatic when I was afforded the opportunity to travel to Seattle with Antoine Moore, our resident expert on leadership development, and Ken Epstein our resident expert on all things systems.  Our destination was King County Public Health, in all its forms, to give a TIS 101 training and work with a cross section of state, departmental, and site-specific leadership. 

We touched down on a Saturday to sun and warmth, and a splendid Lyft driver from Somalia, whom Antoine promptly began asking myriad questions about language.  This is what he does, and he did not fail.  We arrived at the Paramount Hotel, settled in, and then joined a few of our local public health hosts for a dinner at The Blue Acre.  The Blue Acre, I quickly learned is a Tom Douglas restaurant.  If you are not from Seattle Tom Douglas could easily be your orthodontist, but in Seattle he is the restaurant-food-guy.  I could go on about Tom Douglas, (we ate at another TD restaurant the second night) but suffice to say, Tom earned his rep with my tummy. 

We realized quickly during our dinner that like those in public systems in California, and around the country, Seattle public health are trying their best to figure out how to integrate the broad concept of “Trauma Informed Care” into the lifeblood of their daily work.  By dessert we did not have the answer, but we did have a good meal with good people who were headed in the absolute right direction.

The first day included a TIS 101 training for a cross-section of 80 folks from Community Health Services (CHS) Division of Seattle Public Health.  CHS runs 10 health centers throughout King County providing a variety of needs for vulnerable populations.  The second half of the first day was a more in depth examination of the process of leading from a trauma informed perspective which included experiential exercises, a brief leadership training, and a breadth of knowledge from Ken Epstein regarding the successes and challenges experienced by SFDPH.

At the close of our first day we all felt energized, challenged, and brain weary.  In response we decided the best remedy was seafood.  It worked.  I went to bed with a tired brain, a hopeful heart, and a mouth smelling of Halibut and near-beer. 

Our final day began with a morning working with State Public Health and King County Public Health leadership.  King County has created an ambitious and much-needed Equity and Social Justice Initiative that is supported county wide, and spearheaded by the County.  Much of the discussion examined the tension points considered when looking to improve trauma informed care, adding the necessity of alignment with parallel initiatives.  The day concluded working with Downtown Public Health, one of the CHS sites that is most impacted by trauma on a daily basis.  The focus of this meeting was how to support staff, one another, and the clients while holding the spirit of trauma informed care.  As is often the case at the beginning of the trauma informed journey, the group examined the challenges of wellness and health in an environment that feels the burden of trauma day in and day out. 

Although the visit was short, and I still didn’t get to throw a fish in a cool seaman’s rain slicker, I was heartened by the deep commitment and vulnerability of the individuals we worked with while in Seattle.  I look forward to Trauma Transformed stretching its tiny but mighty arms to more of our nations cities, and not just for the food, but also for the hope it brings.   

~ Matt Reddham, Regional Policy Coordinator, MFT