Agencies team on resiliency model; PBS airs film tonight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

This week is Resilience Week in North Carolina, and PBS is broadcasting the film “Resilience” at 8 tonight.

Afterward viewers can participate in a statewide town hall meeting via Twitter.

Resilience matters because unaddressed stress can create chronic health issues and obesity.

Alyssa Smith, executive director of Healthy Rowan, says research tells us the more adverse childhood experiences one has, the more likely that person is to have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a  stroke. People who experience toxic stress have a 230% higher rate of arthritis, cancer, heart attack or heart disease.

“Under stress, we can either be angry, shut down or cope, depending on our resilience,” Smith says.

Smith is partnering with Carol Ann Houpe, director of student services for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, and Christy Lockhart, a school social worker and program coordinator with the N.C. Resiliency Project.

Thanks to funding from the Rowan County commissioners, the agencies and others are aligning to create the Rowan County Community Resilience Model Project.

Planning partners include Rowan Salisbury Schools, Prevent Child Abuse Rowan,  Healthy Rowan, Rowan County Department of Social Services, Rowan County government, Benchmarks N.C., Public School Forum of N.C., Cardinal Innovations HealthCare, and Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Houpe says teaching coping skills to adults may help stop intergenerational trauma. If parents don’t have positive coping skills, they may pass on negative ones to their children — such as drinking alcohol, treating others unkindly, or using drugs.

The partners are offering a free film screening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wallace Educational Forum, 500 N. Main St. The film is titled “Broken Places: Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences.” A panel discussion is planned afterward.

Moreover, they’re offering training on coping skills to businesses, educators and churches. They’ll train folks in January to go out and train others. They’re looking to DSS personnel, churches, hospital staff and others to participate.

“The county commission has been talking about getting upstream,” Houpe says, “and this is one great way to do it.”

“The thing I like about this training,” Smith says, “is it gives everyone the same language and the same skills. Whether you’re in the hospital, business or the schools, we are healing the sore rather than putting on a Band-Aid.”

CRM skills help people understand the nervous system and learn to read sensations connected to their own well-being, which CRM calls the “resilient zone.”

Adverse Childhood Experiences can affect the classroom, as well, so the group plans to include educators in the training.

“Sometimes there’s smoke but no fire, Smith says. “Say the teacher is upset and the student can sense it. The student may be accustomed to being hit or punished so he is sensitive to signals and responds out of fear. He can act out inappropriately.”

The training is helpful for working with all children, she says. There are students who do not have major trauma or difficulties, but just being a child is hard. You don’t always get your way.

Smith cites a quote by Barbara Oehlberg, a child trauma specialist and author: “Children have not changed. Childhood has. The children around us are merely reflecting the challenging, sometimes scary changes in their environment and world.”

If the child can learn to manage himself, that affects his teacher’s health and wellness, which affects the whole classroom.

“If we want to support our children, we need to support their caregivers,” Lockhart says. “We support caregivers by making sure that we have resilient communities. The goal of this project is to foster communities that are thriving when it comes to the social determinants of health.”

“This training will help all sorts of relationships,” Houpe says. “Parent-child, teacher-child, supervisor-employee. The ripple effect can help the entire community.”

“It involves some really simple tactics,” Lockhart says. “Like how you recognize your body responding. You have a choice to go home and have a glass of wine, or you can take a walk with your child. It’s all about replacing your coping mechanism with healthier choices.”

The group has specific goals for achieving the countywide health model. They plan to introduce the Community Resilience Model through local coalitions, then open applications to the public.

Applications are due by Jan. 10. An introductory information session to promote CRM training is planned in December. Then they’ll review applications and invite 20 to 30 applicants to the training by Jan. 17.

The training will be the week of Jan. 27.

Healthy Rowan was chosen to provide oversight on the CRM because of its broad and diverse partners, Houpe said. They’ll act as a clearinghouse of sorts, accepting applications, providing training, then sending trainees to sites that want training for themselves.

“How grateful we are for the commissioners’ insight and forward thinking,” Smith says. “They funded this first training. It’s a substantial investment, but it’s an investment in making Rowan County a healthier place to live.”