MARINETTE — A large percentage of Americans face trauma and in the near future, all employees of the Marinette County Health and Human Services (HHS) Department will undergo training on how to deal with it in their own lives and learn how to help others to cope with it.

“Trauma is something that occurs with a lot of our consumers, our staff and our community,” HHS Director Robin Elsner told the HHS Board last Wednesday. “There’s a large percentage of people in our country that experienced some kind of trauma in their lives. So we’re bringing trauma-informed care to our agency to train our staff to be more aware of trauma.”

Elsner said the purpose of the trauma-informed care initiative is to help consumers as they enter the HHS Building and also for staff “to be aware of their own trauma and how it affects them and how they react to the consumers.”

“I’m proposing that we have all of our staff trained,” he said. “We’re contracting with Donna Burns, an experienced trauma care professional, to train our department. We will train half of our department for six hours on one day and the other half for six hours on another day to make sure that our operations continue and that we continue to offer services.”

Elsner said his department will have to pay $3,000 for the two days of training, plus meals, mileage and lodging expenses. He said he is hopeful of finding an entity to sponsor the training.

He said goals for the training are for his staff to learn specific skills related to trauma-informed care, practice and implement the skills within their culture and in the community with families, and develop action plans for individuals, units, departments and program areas.

Elsner said a Trauma Informed Care Committee, with a representative from every discipline of HHS, has already been formed.

“We’ve had staff that have been trained to treat people with trauma,” he said. “But we’re going to go broader and train all of the department’s staff because we have to be aware of ourselves and aware of what other’s needs are.”

Elsner said “we’re looking at our initial training to happen in December and then we want to train a few of our staff and go out and train foster parents and families. Then we’ll do follow-up coaching and then trainer certification and professional development.”

He said components of trauma-informed care include creating a safe environment, building relationships and connectiveness and support and teach emotional regulation.

He pointed out in his presentation that in the United States, 70 percent of adults have experienced some type of traumatic event, 90 percent of public behavioral health clients have experienced trauma, as many as 80 percent of young adults who had been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at age 21, and more than 33 percent of youths exposed to community violence will experience post-traumatic stress disorder, a severe reaction to traumatic events.

“Trauma-informed care changes the question from ‘what’s wrong with you’ to ‘what happened to you,’” Elsner said.

He said the effects of trauma include sleep problems, chronic pain, chest pain, breathing problems, tension, pelvic pain, heart palpitations, jumpiness, headaches, digestive problems, chronic fatique, nightmares, dissociations, mind difficulty, avoiding certain places, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and loss of time.

Elsner said people who have experienced trauma are: 15 times more likely to commit suicide, four times more likely to become an alcoholic, develop a sexually transmitted and inject drugs; three times more likely to use antidepressant medication, to be absent from work, have serious job problems and to experience depression, and 2.5 more times likely to smoke tobacco.

“We will provide supervision to our staff and try to help our staff work through some of those issues, and then we should be connecting them to services,” he said. “I think just by talking about this, it’s already triggered staff that know they’ve experienced some trauma, they’re going to learn how to deal with that. If they start with themselves, they can be effective with our consumers.”