Crawford and Erie County in Northwest Pennsylvania joined together again this fall to host the 5th Annual Trauma Informed and Resilient Communities Conference at Edinboro University. This entirely free conference was well attended with approximately 355 total participants (system, youth, family, community, and faith partners) who sold out the venue in less than one day.
Our morning plenary promoted building community resilience at the neighborhood level. It began with a brief welcome by Interim President of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Michael J. Hannan who shared his enthusiasm for the trauma informed movement happening in Northwest PA. We then moved to our morning keynote by the thought provoking and inspirational Father Paul Abernathy from FOCUS Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Abernathy, the Project Director of Focus Pittsburgh’s Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) initiative, offered a holistic view into community trauma. TICD is a new framework, developed by FOCUS Pittsburgh, for addressing traumas faced at a community level, like the gun violence found in FOCUS Pittsburgh’s Hill District, that affects an entire community. The TICD framework for addressing community trauma focuses on micro-community identification, intervention, and empowerment operated under 3 pillars: community support, leadership development, and health and wellbeing. Abernathy stressed the importance of real time data collection to support the work and detailed the tools they have developed, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, to meet these data needs. The TICD framework is currently being carried out by FOCUS Pittsburgh and Crawford County along with 5 other satellite locations across the nation.
After a brief intermission and coffee break, we moved to our morning workshops. Participants had the opportunity to choose between 9 interactive workshops, each 75 minutes long which included sessions about self care in the helping profession, conversations with an individual who has sexually offended, music therapy, addiction 101, suicide, and a youth and families tell all session.
The afternoon keynote brought Ms. Desiree Davis, an inspiration and transformation speaker and balloon artist, to our stage. Informed by her own personal experiences struggling with depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and suicide, Davis engaged the audience in a powerful message about finding balance and embracing new opportunities.
Our day concluded with a round of 10 additional interactive workshops, each 75 minutes long which included sessions about war and trauma history, engaging youth in prevention, trust based relational intervention, group drumming, a trauma informed criminal justice system, the biology of stress, and incorporating yoga into trauma treatment.
The 5th Annual Trauma Informed and Resilient Communities Conference lasted a bit over 8 hours and provided a holistic look into the efforts of local educators, social workers, first responders, students, etc. in preventing and recognizing ACEs in individuals and their community. We offered 7.0 hours of social work continuing education credits to those who participated. Indeed, individuals felt recharged by the passionate and collaborative work happening here in Crawford and Erie County.