It takes an average of six traumatic experiences before a person will receive treatment. It often begins with childhood abuse and then takes six additional traumatic events before it progresses into something that prompts a person to get or need help. That’s what Professor Bita Ghafoori has discovered since launching the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center (LBTRC) in April of 2014.
Funded by a $1.9 million grant from the State of California Victim Compensation and Government Claim Board, the LBTRC is the second trauma recovery center to be established in the State. The first trauma recovery center, started by the University of California, San Francisco in 2001, has been recognized nationally for helping to treat trauma victims from some of northern California’s most vulnerable populations.
The goal of these centers is to create models for effective trauma and mental health care for victims and their families, specifically from underserved populations. Researchers at each center focus on therapy, mental health services, outreach, advocacy and education. Ghafoori, who teaches counseling and therapy and is the Principal Investigator of the project, is hoping to replicate the success of the S.F. Trauma Center, while tailoring it for the diverse Long Beach population, which includes using evidence-based therapies to gauge cultural responsiveness to traditional therapeutic methods. Based on the numbers, Ghafoori may not be far off the mark.
Within one year of launch, nearly 400 people — mainly victims of sexual assault and domestic violence — have been treated at the LBTRC. It’s also received grants from the California Endowment and CalGrip program since opening its doors.
“We actually don’t turn anyone away,” Ghafoori says. “About 30 percent of our population has experienced sexual assault, another 30 percent are victims of domestic violence, and then there are a mix of people who have experienced grief and loss issues, people who have been in motor vehicle accidents, and some people who have reported community violence such as witnessing gang-related violence.”
The Trauma Recovery Center is located in St. Mary’s Medical Center on Long Beach’s Atlantic Avenue. It’s a key partnership with a local hospital that Ghafoori says was intentional for its strategic location in a zip code that is home to a lot of crime victims. The area also offers easy access to public transportation.
In addition to providing therapies for trauma victims throughout the community, the LBTRC is providing key research opportunities for Ghafoori and her team to assess the efficacy of outreach efforts and therapeutic methods, and test training for graduate students who are studying counseling and social work at CSULB.
As an approved fieldwork site for the Marriage and Family Therapy and Masters in Social Work programs, students can apply to work at the Center where they will keep a caseload of 8-10 clients and are responsible for providing therapy and case management.
“Our clients are predominately very poor. The average income for most of our clients is under $12K a year, so the students oftentimes have to help with shelter and medical appointments,” Ghafoori said, adding that the LBTRC has already built collaborative relationships with over 100 agencies in town. Students are also involved in giving presentations at local schools and to community groups to help educate people on what trauma is and reduce cultural stigma to seeking treatment.
A number of community agencies, including the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office and Police Department, have recognized the importance of the LBTRC and have signed on as partners. This academic year, Ghafoori is conducting a specialized training with LBPD to talk about the dangers and signs of vicarious trauma for first responders.