United Way of Southwest Virginia to lead region in forming Trauma-Informed Community Network

Abingdon, VA (May 22, 2019) – Southwest Virginia needs a unified plan that can support resiliency-based strategies as effective means to combat Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the region. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Adverse childhood experiences can contribute to mental illness and substance use disorders throughout the lifespan. They are not limited to high-profile tragedies, but also include experiencing and witnessing verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.”  United Way of Southwest Virginia is stepping up to help the region develop this plan by forming a Trauma-Informed Community Network across the organization’s service area from the New River Valley to the Twin County region and into far Southwest Virginia.

Across Virginia, communities are coming together across professional disciplines to address trauma-informed care. Most often in Virginia these groups form as Trauma-Informed Community Networks (TICNs). In each of these communities, these networks share common characteristics: spreading awareness, conducting training, supporting and implementing new practices in schools, courts, and community services, and much more. These TICNs help to connect practice across disciplines and help to identify gaps and how policies can be implemented.

United Way of Southwest Virginia asked attendees at the Rural Summit for Childhood Success about the barriers they perceive to implementing trauma-informed care strategies in their community. The four consistent themes were 1) lack of collaboration, coordination, and communication as well as lack of a backbone organization, 2) lack of knowledge on how to deal with trauma as well as a lack of knowledge on resources, 3) inconsistent trauma-sensitive practices and lack of qualified evidence-based services, and 4) the stigma on trauma and a lack of acceptance for the need for treatment.

To learn more about these barriers, United Way of Southwest Virginia hosted a roundtable with representatives from the state and also the region.  The state leaders were able to listen to local providers as they outlined ways the state can help them better serve children and families.  Suggestions from the group included better communication across professional disciplines, additional resources for at-risk students, more tele-health and more tele-mental health, stronger partnerships between child-serving organizations, partnerships with pediatricians so they know where to refer families for services, and out-of-home care for children that is located in Southwest Virginia.

Dr. Daniel Carey, Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, shared information about state resources available for families, including the recent Medicaid expansion and statewide home visiting services that provide parenting skill building for families.

Dr. Carey said, “Aligning leaders from multiple professions is the key to creating a networked system of services for children and families who experience trauma.  This is the only way we will achieve sustainable systems change work that will build community resiliency and create the economic environment to lift all families in the region.”

According to United Way of Southwest Virginia president and CEO, Travis Staton, an immediate action the region has taken was to join the statewide network of Trauma-Informed Community Networks.  “United Way of Southwest Virginia has grown over the past ten years and, as such, we are uniquely positioned to convene community partners and join Virginia’s statewide network of Trauma-Informed Community Networks to serve as the TICNs hub in Southwest Virginia. By convening cross-sector partners to build a more unified trauma-informed system, the region can begin to build resiliency in children, families, and child-serving systems across the region. Ultimately our goal is that the region will maintain the momentum for collaboration and resist the old way of doing things, recognizing the benefits of working together, leading to better child and family outcomes.”

Photo of Dr. Kris Westover, president of MECC, First Lady Pamela Northam, and Travis Staton, president and ceo of United Way of Southwest Virginia by Earl Neikirk of Neikirk Image


United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life.  Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change.  With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.