JRI Treatment for Trauma Victims
JRI researchers studying effects of race-based trauma
JRI staff will study the impact of race-based trauma from events like the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an African-American from Minneapolis, by city police officers.
Dr. Lia Martin, Associate Director of Quality Management, is leading a team of employees from JRI’s Diversity Action Team to conduct research into race-based trauma stemming from a years-long series of highly publicized racial incidents in the United States.
Martin, who helps lead JRI’s research efforts, said clinical intern Lorine Trappier from JRI’s FOCUS program, which provides temporary emergency shelter and other services to families in southeastern Massachusetts, suggested the study as a way to understand race-based trauma and to improve client care.
“I felt it was important to bring awareness to racial-based trauma, stressors, and the suffering related to it. More importantly, we need to know how it may affect the individual physically and emotionally. Racial microaggressions, specifically, can be hard to identify and are often missed. In order to provide the best care for the clients we have to look at the whole person not just their behaviors,” said Trappier.
The research will not only center on highly publicized, traumatic events like the murder of Floyd. The team also wants to understand the impact of subtle, more daily encounters that may contribute to racial trauma, too. Those might include people being unable to find adhesive bandages or tights that match their skin tone, or hiring managers making assumptions about their work ethic or their intelligence based on their race, or mortgage lenders being unwilling to approve a mortgage for a person of color.
Martin said she is looking for a self-directed and highly detailed questionnaire that will enable her team to identify common effects of race-based trauma, as well as to make recommendations about improving both the client and employee experience.
“We want to ask not only about their experiences but (their) perceptions of those experiences,” she said. People “might not even experience (events) as trauma.”
Then the questionnaires will be distributed to staff and clients of selective programs for a trial run before it is given to all of JRI’s residential facilities, group homes, and inpatient and outpatient programs — and not only to people of color. She said she hopes to have preliminary results collected over the next several months so they can be released later this year and shared with other providers to improve the client and employee experience.
ReScripted: An innovative theater-based approach to address complex trauma
ReScripted is a new JRI program that helps youth that have experienced complex trauma to gain better control over their lives.
Developed by Valerie Krpata, LICSW, Elizabeth Petillo, LMHC, Sarah Carter, LMHC, RDT, and Sasha Garfunkel Corrado, LICSW, who make up ReScripted’s Leadership Team, the program uses games, theater, and movement to help residents of the agency’s congregate care programs and residential schools, ages 12 to 22 years.
Young people who suffer from complex developmental trauma can feel that life happens to them with their reactions hijacked by their trauma responses. ReScripted’s trauma-informed activities help clients learn skills such as emotional regulation, conflict resolution, mindfulness and others in a safe and supportive environment.
The program follows a trajectory of “Act. Embody. Empower.” that encourages youth to learn about various skills, perhaps just observing the activities at first. Over time, they are encouraged to practice the skills and ultimately incorporate them into their lives. A game in the Act phase might be low-risk and low-stress, but as participants progress into an Embody or Empower phase, they learn to modulate their emotions and practice appropriate responses.
Data shows that after participating in even just one session of ReScripted, clients experienced an increase in interoception, which is a person’s ability to understand and respond to internal physical cues such as hunger, fatigue, and anger. ReScripted’s Leadership are now using expanded measures to look at the program’s effect on other areas, such as client self-esteem and caregiver well-being.
Data shows that after participating in even just one session of ReScripted, clients experienced an increase in interoception, which is a person’s ability to understand and respond to internal physical cues such as hunger, fatigue, and anger.
SMART approach for treating transition-aged youth
For many children and adolescents in JRI programs, an innovative mental health therapy called SMART helps with emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal regulation of their bodies and emotions.
SMART (Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment) enables victims of embodied complex trauma to process an array of symptoms stemming from years of severe neglect and abuse: from heightened anxiety and fearfulness, to acting out and self-harm, to a disconnection between the victim and their physical body.
Developed at JRI, SMART utilizes therapeutic equipment, such as weighted blankets, balance beams, fitness balls, and large cushions in shared play that uses movement to engage the children’s subcortical and cortical neural pathways to increase behavioral and psychological integration.
Now Valerie Krpata, director of the GRIP group home for up to 18 young people ages 16-22, is piloting a program using SMART tools to treat youth who will soon transition to independent living situations.
“I have done SMART with many ages,” said Krpata, who has been with JRI for 12 years. “But how does it transition to independent living? A sense of familiarity with the tools feels safe. They practice skills in SMART that keep them in the present moment while out in the communities engaging in independent living skills, like driving and at work. This helps them not feel like they are in survival mode all of the time and allows them to make active choices in their lives.”
Using physical play and therapy can help victims of complex trauma feel as if they are in control of their bodies, and feel a sense of confidence and competence that years of neglect and abuse at the hands of caregivers has deprived them of.
One client who was on the phone with Social Security to discuss benefits used SMART tools — such as walking in circles while bouncing a ball with a staff while on the phone — to help them stay calm and focused. Another client with severe ADHD was able to feel calm and safe squeezing into a SMART tool called a canoe that made them “feel safe in their bodies, and their nervous system is calmer.”
Trauma-sensitive yoga aids transgender youth
The Center for Trauma and Embodiment is delivering trauma-sensitive yoga to transgender, gender queer and gender non-conforming youth, thanks to a $59,000 grant from the Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation.
Transgender and gender non-conforming youth are at much greater risk for homelessness, suicidality, bullying, drug use, school expulsion and incarceration than their straight, cisgender peers.
The Center for Trauma and Embodiment uses TCTSY — Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga — to reduce PTSD symptoms and depression for transgender and gender non-conforming youth suffering long-term, complex trauma.
The CFTE is partnering with Children’s Friend and Family Services and the North Shore Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth (NAGLY) to offer TCTSY foundational training for providers, many of whom also have a lived experience, from NAGLY and CFFS who wants to attend.
In addition, the grant will pay for full TCTSY certification scholarships for five providers who work within the transgender, gender queer or gender non-confirming community plus $4,000 stipends for each of the new facilitators to bring TCTSY to transgender, gender queer or gender non-conforming youth.
Hilary Hodgdon, JRI Research Director
JRI Research on trauma-informed care published
A study highlighting the success of trauma-informed care at JRI’s residential programs was published in Child Abuse & Neglect.
Hilary Hodgdon, JRI Research Director, was principal investigator of the study and lead author of the peer-reviewed article. Kari Beserra, an Executive Vice President at JRI, is also an author, as well as members of the psychology department at Suffolk University.
The study demonstrates that trauma-informed residential treatment can lead to reductions in clinical symptoms, even among young people who have experienced multiple traumas — most commonly neglect, psychological abuse, physical abuse, impaired caregiving, sexual abuse and domestic violence.
In all, 547 youth, ages 12 to 18, were involved in the study, with data collected from 13 residential programs between 2012 and 2018.
The programs used two, complementary trauma-informed care approaches: Attachment, Regulation and Competency (ARC), and the JRI developed Building Communities of Care (BCC). Staff throughout the programs, from front desk personnel to clinicians, were trained in the approaches.
The study showed that trauma-informed residential care resulted in significant reductions in symptoms of PTSD, depression, dissociation, psychological dysregulation and externalizing problems. Girls, who represented 58.6 percent of the study participants and initially presented with more severe symptoms, showed as much improvement as boys.
Hodgdon hopes the publication of this study will encourage the use of trauma-informed care, particularly with the ARC and BCC approaches, in residential programs throughout the United States.
“Our research team at JRI is very proud of this work. There is not enough research that examines the effectiveness of residential care and this study shows how important it is to implement trauma-informed approaches in residential settings.”
JRI Research Director
Transforming Trauma with Weight Lifting
Trauma-Informed Weight Lifting
The effects of complex physical and emotional trauma don’t just disappear when trauma ceases: they can live on in the body and nervous system for years or even a lifetime without treatment.
And because the symptoms of trauma are wide-ranging —flashbacks, disorientation, intrusions, relational challenges, dissociation and other symptoms — effective treatment usually requires both emotional and physical interventions.
JRI’s Trauma-Informed Weight Lifting program, explores the power of weight training to help trauma victims heal and re/discover their strength. TIWL has trained some 300+ people using a collaborative, whole-body approach designed to empower trauma-impacted youth and adults, and build resilience.
TIWL will graduate its first 35 people from a new eight-week certificate program designed to train fitness instructors, personal trainers and coaches in trauma-informed approaches to building and maintaining safety in fitness and gym spaces and in the relationships between coach and client. They will also learn to design gym spaces that are welcoming and inclusive to people who are often marginalized in fitness and gym environments.
Mariah Rooney, TIWL’s co-founder and co-director, said JRI will incorporate TIWL into two youth residential programs in 2023, providing an adjunctive treatment to the other services JRI programs provide. She also said the TIWL program is training people from countries around the world to use trauma-informed techniques in working with clients.
CAC cuts ribbon on expanded, improved center
The Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County is serving clients at its renovated and expanded headquarters in Fall River, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in September.
The $3 million building purchase and upgrade enables the CAC to expand the services it offers children and families suffering from sexual abuse, violence, drug endangerment and other trauma. It also allows the CAC to increase prevention trainings and awareness activities offered throughout Bristol County. About 800 child victims were referred to the CAC for sexual abuse investigations in 2022, as the need for services approached pre-Covid levels.
The 15-month renovation created expanded waiting room suites, where victims and families can meet with family advocates and mental health clinicians in safety and privacy. It also included new forensic interview rooms, training and community outreach spaces, and upgraded technology and exam equipment.
Funds for the project were raised through The Spreading our Wings Capital Campaign, supported by generous donors including Charlton Charitable Trust, Bristol County Savings Bank, JRI, BayCoast Bank and the office of Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn.
About 800 child victims were referred to the CAC for sexual abuse investigations in 2022, as the need for services approached pre-Covid levels.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are Fundamental Values at JRI
At JRI, diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental values shaping every part of the organization and its functions.
As the United States faces a necessary and unprecedented confrontation with its history of racial injustice, we now see the existing inequalities more clearly. JRI recognizes this and is committed to addressing these challenges through innovative thinking, focused action, and targeted investments in its employees and communities. Our strategic effort to create a welcoming and supportive environment for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and other underrepresented groups is crucial to fostering a workplace that benefits everyone. At JRI, we believe our actions also benefit society as a whole.
JRI’s commitment to DEI is reflected in formal systems that complement the employee resource groups created during the pandemic. The Diversity Accountability Leadership Group fosters groups and committees that provide safe places for employees to raise concerns. This group also reviews policies, training, and care plans to ensure they are equitable, inclusive, and effective for a diverse population. The organization’s intensive foster care training program is currently undergoing such a review, as did the Building Communities of Care curriculum.
JRI also encourages its staff to speak to peer-to-peer navigators or report discrimination or harassment using the Report Something function on the agency’s shared drive. By prioritizing the accountability of DEI, the organization aims to provide opportunities for recruitment, promotions, and a satisfying, fulfilling career to all its employees.
DEI is embedded in everything JRI does, becoming a standing agenda at meetings, and everyone has a role in shaping the culture and outcomes. With this strong focus on DEI, JRI continuously strives to create a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace where everyone feels valued and appreciated.
“Diversity attracts diversity. We want JRI to be more than just a place people work. We want to make sure everyone has opportunities for recruitment, promotions, and a satisfying, fulfilling career.”
Jenese Brownhill, LICSW
Co-Chair of JRI Governing Body Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee Director of Juvenile Justice Division
In Our Employees
Training and Staff Development are part of the job for all of us at JRI
Continuous training is central to what we all do at JRI.
Whether an employee is completing their GED, associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a college or university, or an advanced degree from one of the professional programs at local universities with which JRI partners, our employees can count on our support as they progress their careers, earn promotions and take on new responsibilities on the job.
In addition to providing regular in-house training, JRI in 2022 also provided $1,057,586 in tuition scholarships and reimbursement to employees enrolled in educational programs that add to their skills
Among the JRI employees receiving financial support:
Assistant Supervisor at Rediscovery, a program of JRI
“Getting my masters felt unattainable to me. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Social Work, I believed that was as far as I would go. Having been working full time, interning full time, and going to school full time I began to feel burnt out. I couldn’t stop working because I needed to pay for school. I couldn’t stop my internship because it was part of my graduation requirement. And I couldn’t stop going to school because well, this was what it all was about for me! Getting to the end with my Bachelor’s degree in hand. I desired to go back to school but was afraid of having the same experience of working, interning, and full-time schooling. I was afraid of being burnt out again. Then came JRI! JRI made my desire to obtain my master’s degree attainable by providing me with the opportunity to receive a scholarship. This dream now was tangible. JRI made way for me to be able to focus on what matters to me the most which is my schooling, my education and being able to be fully present without the worry of being able to afford it.”
Director of Mentoring Services at My Life My Choice, a program of JRI
Clinical Director at My Life My Choice, a program of JRI
“I am thrilled to be a recipient of this scholarship. Starting my Doctorate of Social Work is scary and exciting. I will be able to deepen my learning and understanding of what social justice means and apply it to the work I do every day at My Life My Choice.”
Christina Valila joined My Life My Choice in 2014 as the agency’s first Intake Coordinator where she was responsible for assessing and responding to all referrals for exploited youth in need of a survivor mentor throughout Eastern Massachusetts. In her current role she oversees My Life My Choices’ cornerstone Survivor Empowerment Program which includes the full continuum of its direct services: assessments, survivor-led mentoring, therapy, intensive case management, and group work. As Clinical Director, she also works collaboratively with agencies across the state, often interfacing with local law enforcement, human trafficking detectives, social workers, and other collaterals connected to the youth served by My Life My Choice. She has been working with marginalized populations for over 15 years. Prior to joining My Life My Choice, Valila worked with adults in the criminal justice, substance use, and HIV/AIDS support and intervention.
Therapeutic Mentor for Children’s Friend and Family Services, a division of JRI
“This scholarship means the world to me. Attending BU to get my MSW provides me the resources and support needed to continue growing as a social worker and provider for families in need.”
Gerardo Lopez-Picardi has been a Therapeutic Mentor at JRI since 2019. In this role, he provides one-to-one support for children and adolescents by helping them address daily living, social, and communications needs. He additionally guides youth in age-appropriate behavior, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and relating well to peers and adults. He is attending Boston University to pursue his Masters in Social Work. Upon graduation, he seeks to become a lead clinician with JRI and continue his mission in life to support children of all ages who may not have had the resources and support that he had growing up.
Dr. Williams promoted to Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Kerry-Ann Williams, who has worked for JRI for more than a decade, was promoted to a new position as Chief Medical Officer, working with JRI leadership to ensure the highest standards of medical and psychiatric care.
She previously served as medical director for JRI’s children’s residential programs and oversaw psychiatric care throughout JRI.
Dr. Williams specializes in the psychiatric management of traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She also specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
She hosts a weekly podcast called “Black Mental Health Matters with Dr. Kerry-Ann” which is available on multiple podcasting platforms and which covers topics including depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other issues of special significance to Black people and people of color.
JRI Board of
(Honorary Board Member)