By John Lynds
When six-year-old Brayden Kelly of Dorchester drowned in a pool on Trenton Street, the trauma of the event affected not only the boy’s family, but Braden’s extend family, friends, first responders and neighbors who had witnessed the incident and its aftermath.
Following the drowning there was a support team on hand from the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center to try and help those trying to cope with the loss.
The team is part of the Health Center new Neighborhood Trauma Team (NTT) a relatively new directive put together by Mayor Walsh’s Administration and the Boston Public Health Commission.
At last week’s Eagle Hill Civic Association meeting, the Health Center’s Michael Mancusi explained that the model was designed with feedback from a community engagement process that included 14 listening sessions hosted by Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). During this time BPHC staff heard from more than 350 residents about what their individual and community needs have been following a violent or traumatic event.
In April, the Health Center was chosen as one of five NTT in the city to begin responding to traumatic events in the neighborhood and help family, friends and the broader community deal with events like shootings, stabbings and suicides.
“This is a multi-agency collaboration and we (EBNHC) have been working with agencies from across East Boston like North Suffolk Mental Health, District A-7, the East Boston Soup Kitchen to begin deal with traumatic events in the community in a more concerted way,” said Mancusi.
Mancusi explained that the NTT will respond to what are called ‘qualifying events’. After a qualifying event happens the NTT will offer immediate individual and family support and ongoing access to trauma treatment. The team will conduct community outreach and engagement to make sure residents know how to access services, and will host community meetings to share safety information and provide safe spaces for groups to come together for healing.
“The qualifying events include any gun homicide, a shooting or stabbing were the victim or victims are under the age of 18 or an open third category like suicides or attempted suicides and incidents like the drowning of the boy back in June,” said Mancusi.
Each qualifying incident, explained Mancusi, has a ripple effect in the community that starts with the victim and spreads out to family members, extended family members, friends and the community or neighbors who have witnessed a violent or traumatic event.
“When a qualifying event happens, we immediately put together a plan,” said Mancusi. “Then within 12 hours of the incident we are reaching out to either the victim, family members, extended family members or witnesses to the event that may have been traumatized and need help.”
Mancusi pointed to the drowning in June as one of the first incidents the NTT responded to.
“As you can imagine it was one of more extensive responses because there were so many people affected by the drowning,” said Mancusi. “We are still helping those that were involved in that incident.”
Other incidents like a recent suicide attempt that luckily didn’t end in a death also had a huge impact on the person’s family and friends as well as neighbors.
“There were roommates involved that witnessed the event, a friend that was stopping by to take the gentleman out for the day, first responders and a bunch of neighbors that witnessed the event,” said Mancusi. “What we did in that situation was launch a door knocking campaign up and down the street and try and reach out to those who may have seen the incident and were feeling traumatized by the incident.”
Mancusi said the Health Center’s NTT will offer a whole host of support services and follow up services for those affected by one of these traumatic events in Eastie.
“There are concentric circles that surround a traumatic incident,” said Mancusi. “We are here to help each ripple that comes from an incident that may have a deep impact on an individual or group of individuals.”
Aside from the drowning and suicide attempts, Mancusi said the NTT has also responded to two stabbings and a shooting incident a few weeks ago.
“With the new Neighborhood Trauma Teams, in the aftermath of violence, community health centers, hospitals and community groups will now be able to coordinate immediate response and sustained recovery for all those affected,” said Mayor Martin Walsh about the initiative. “Together, we’ll break the cycle of violence and heal our city.”