HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Gov. Josh Green announced he will lead a new state agency tasked with helping people deal with childhood trauma and other mental health issues.
Tia Roberts Hartsock will become the new director of the Governor’s Office of Health and Resilience, effective January 17.
She is a mental health veteran who assists young female trauma survivors in the criminal justice and child welfare systems as part of a federal initiative within the state Department of Health.
“Trauma-informed care is an approach to understanding the pervasiveness of trauma in our lives,” Hartsock explains. “So awareness and education about it, and how traumatic events affect how we think, learn, concentrate, and respond to stress.”
Earlier this year, the state legislature allocated about $900,000 to create a semi-autonomous state agency.
It is the first project of its kind in the country, addressing the root causes of society’s greatest problems, with the ambitious goal of hopefully reducing crime, substance abuse, suicide, human trafficking and homelessness.
“If we improve our policies and succeed in reducing trauma, we can save so much money,” Green said. “Because people incarcerated can get their lives back sooner, it saves a lot of resources that could be spent on other things.”
Nearly 40% of children and two-thirds of adults in the United States experience trauma.
Some state ministries have social workers, but they just scratch the surface. Green said the statewide team would change the game.
“Frankly, a small strike force of six people with expertise will be sent to help prepare them to incorporate trauma-informed services and policies. Their department will be good. “I will,” he said.
Hartsock chairs a multi-agency trauma-based statewide task force created in 2021 in response to the increase in trauma caused by the pandemic.
“We all do it in our own way. We all have our own kind of definition, our own way of interpreting principles. We all have our own way of training people, but There is no concerted effort to systematically standardize it,” Hartsock said.
She added that she plans to implement a framework for groups.
“I hope the office will figure out a way to standardize the approach so everyone speaks the same language, has the same outcomes and goals, and understands what healing looks like, what resilience looks like. It’s about what it’s like to build and do it through a framework that allows us to bring the uniqueness that we have here in Hawaii.”
Many say they were encouraged by the state’s move from punishment to cure.
“Recognizing that I am a victim of trauma, recognizing the trauma that I have survived, is a way to actually get to a place where it can be healed and where it does not permeate all other areas of my life. , my relationships, my career, my well-being,” said Diana Bejasa-Gremillion, a 9/11 survivor and trauma-savvy life coach.
Green also said he would prioritize cultural competence to better connect with non-English speaking communities like the disproportionately imprisoned Micronesians.
He is also working on employment incentives to address the acute shortage of mental health workers.
“COVID has created a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder environment in society,” Green said. “People were unable to do what they normally do, were unable to see their families, and were often financially challenged and threatened.”
Green added that this change will be made during the rebuild.
“There is a lot of work to do, so I think they have a big job ahead of them at the Office of Wellness.”
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