HESSTON — Central Kansas Community Foundation, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite University, the Harvey County Health Department and Offender Victim Ministries hosted two training programs at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains this week. 

Two sessions for training in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resiliency and a session for Adverse Childhood Experiences training were offered to area first responders, Excel employees, health and human service providers and educators.

Susan Lamb, who worked contractually with CKCF to coordinate both trainings, said the events were funded by a $50,000 grant from the Funders’ Network.

“The relationship with the Funders’ Network with a grant focused on disaster preparedness and response began for Central Kansas Community Foundation early in 2017, and an opportunity to receive additional funding for an extensive project prompted CKCF to apply for support in the area of trauma,” Lamb said. 

The STAR and ACEs trainings are designed to impart trauma-informed skills for individuals to use both in the workplace and in their personal spheres of influence. 

“We continue to be committed to caring for our county as individuals and groups continue their journey through the recovery associated with the Excel shooting, but we are also keenly aware of the need to be educated about potential trauma associated with future disasters — be they natural or human created,” commented CKCF Executive Director Angie Tatro.

Annette Lantz-Simmons, the executive director for the Center for Conflict Resolution in Kansas City, Missouri, and Katie Mansfield, lead trainer for STAR at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, led the STAR trainings in Hesston.

Local facilitators leading the ACEs training were Harvey County Health Department Director Lynnette Redington, and Offender Victim Ministries of Harvey County Executive Director Laurel Woodward-Breckbill. Woodward-Breckbill is also trained in the STAR curriculum. 

“We have such a strong community of support for this work and believe that this is another progressive step for our county," Lamb said. 

The STAR and ACEs training outlined how traumas endured in childhood — like physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or living with family members who were mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol — can affect individuals when they experience adverse incidents as adults.

"After a community crisis, whether it's a shooting or a tornado or a flood, people are impacted and there is all this stuff that comes up," Tatro said.

During the ACEs training, Redington talked about how historical or generational trauma can affect communities.

"We have, in general, a theory that traumatic events endured by communities negatively impact individuals' lives in ways that result in future problems for their descendants," Redington said. "The ways these are passed from generation to generation vary, sometimes it's through impaired parenting or distressing stories that are passed from one generation to another."

"If we have healthy communities and community structures, then we're giving support to families and individuals so that they can also create better patterns and pass those along to their children," Woodward-Breckbill said.

While teachers in the Newton school district have had trauma informed training, Lamb said there are efforts to include other educators and agencies in Harvey County

"We're really working to try to get Harvey County trauma informed," Lamb said. "I'm hoping that this just elevates this interest so that we can continue to engage more people in the process."

Redington noted the ACEs and STAR trainings fell in line with the Community Health Improvement Plan's objective to improve mental and behavioral health issues in Harvey County.

"The hope is (for) less youth depression, youth suicides (and) major crimes," Redington said.

"It's exciting to me, because it's part of a larger conversation I see social services and health care providers in Harvey County having, which is 'how can we acknowledge people's trauma and ... make sure that our community is healthy and stays healthy,'" Woodward-Breckbill said.