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Trauma Recovery Coaches: Partners on a Journey of Healing

Report to Community Flyer 8-21-NC-1

Research tells us that about 80% of a person’s health depends on factors beyond medical care. That includes exposure to trauma. Here’s how the Institute for H.OP.E.™ – in particular, the team’s Trauma Recovery Coaches – is building a more resilient community.

At the King Kennedy public housing complex in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood, hope comes in short supply. Shanell Harris, a one-time resident of the neighborhood, is committed to changing that.

“Sometimes they don’t even know what hope is,” says Harris, now a Lead Trauma Recovery Coach from MetroHealth’s Center for Health Resilience within the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ “To me, hope looks like someone listening – someone offering motivation.”

Harris started working with the kids at King Kennedy in December of 2020 – not long after many had witnessed the shooting death of a 19-year-old resident by a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority police officer. Harris helped the children process the traumatic event, develop appropriate coping skills, connect with community resources and, perhaps most important, plant seeds of hope.

MetroHealth’s six Trauma Recovery Coaches, who are stationed in the hospital as well as in the community, are more than just social workers. For survivors of trauma – both physical and emotional – these coaches are partners on a journey of healing.

“Our coaches work with patients to get to the root of their trauma and guide them through it so that it doesn’t lead to bigger health issues,” says Megen Simpson, Manager, MetroHealth Trauma Recovery Center. “We show up as our whole selves and work to alleviate some of that fear and isolation they might be going through.”

For years, researchers have linked the exposure to traumatic experiences – like witnessing violence, living in unsafe neighborhoods, growing up in poverty, experiencing racism and more – to chronic health issues like diabetes, obesity, depression and the like. Individuals served by the recovery coaches and the Center for Health Resilience are also more likely to report experiencing food insecurity, social isolation, intimate partner violence, stress, transportation challenges and other risks associated with poor health outcomes.

“Trauma can change who you are as an individual,” says Marlon Leek, a Trauma Recovery Coach who spends his days working with hospitalized patients at MetroHealth’s main campus. “So much of what we do is about chipping away at that stigma associated with mental health and positioning our patients to live their healthiest lives.”

So much of the work is focused on building trust, according to MarLa Bell, a MetroHealth coach working at the Rainbow Terrace housing complex in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood. At Rainbow Terrace, Bell has worked with children who experienced violence and with adults struggling with their own mental health. She’s even trained the staff on how trauma can impact an individual and the broader community.

“I did not get through trauma alone and neither can anyone else,” Bell says. “Trauma recovery teams are a necessity for our communities to heal and thrive.”

In fact, trauma grows in isolation. The path toward healing, though, is one nobody should travel alone.

To view the latest quarterly report from the Institute for H.O.P.E., which includes this story and its latest social determinant of health screening data, click here. For more information about the Institute, visit www.metrohealth.org/hope.