Wisconsin’s First Lady Tonette Walker Visits MCAC to focus on Trauma Informed Care

Wisconsin’s First Lady Tonette Walker visits Marshfield Center to focus on trauma informed care

Marshfield Clinic Pulse 05-05-17

Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) welcomed Wisconsin’s First Lady Tonette Walker on Friday, May 19, to the Marshfield Center. Her stop is part of a tour of the state highlighting her Fostering Futures initiative and raising awareness about the benefits of trauma-informed care (TIC).

TIC is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. It lessens the blame placed on children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and helps people respond compassionately to a child’s behavior. Instead of asking “what is wrong with you?” the adult might ask “what has happened to you?”

When Walker arrived in Marshfield, she was met by Dr. Kristen Iniguez, director of the Marshfield Child Advocacy Center (MCAC), and Dr. Narayana Murali, Marshfield Clinic executive director. From there, they accompanied Walker on a tour of MCAC, a safe, child-focused center, where investigators bring children for comprehensive, coordinated care when there are concerns for child abuse or neglect. Services provided by the MCAC enhance the investigative process and allow for recognition, treatment, and/or referral for medical, behavioral, and educational problems.

After the tour, a roundtable was held with MCHS staff and state of Wisconsin employees. Those from MCHS, including Dr. Iniguez, were Dr. Myra D. West, clinical psychologist, Tony Iniguez, trauma education specialist, Randy Neve, Center for Community Outreach Children’s Services manager, Jennifer Smith, Youth Net Program mManager, Tammy Ellis, MCAC Program manager, Sheila Weix, director of Substance Abuse Services, and Sandy Bump, Behavioral Health/Psychiatry Operations manager. Joining Walker was Elizabeth Hudson, director of the Office of Children’s Mental Health, State of Wisconsin, and Carol Howard, director Fostering Futures of Wisconsin.

Walker heard from Dr. Iniguez and others around the table about what MCHS is doing to be a leader in TIC and resilience. The discussion touched on how to help individuals overcome the negative effects of childhood trauma, by buffering those negative effects and building resilience, or the capacity to overcome future traumas. Building resilience requires development of nurturing, attentive, and supportive relationships and involves both an individual and a community at large. Community should ideally be safe, accepting, and able to provide appropriate resources for the individual. Dr. Iniguez explained that a goal of MCAC is to provide education to healthcare providers, school staff, and other members of the community about what trauma is and how to work with affected individuals through building trust and positive relationships.

“It is so important to be trauma informed,” Dr. Iniguez said. “We need to be able to recognize trauma, provide appropriate resources to decrease the effects of trauma, and more importantly, to build resilience to strengthen our communities.”

Staff also discussed some challenges they face, including geographical and transportation barriers that prevent children that needs services from getting to Marshfield, and funding challenges.

Walker’s goal is to encourage all of Wisconsin to be trauma informed, something Dr. Iniguez agrees should be a priority.

“Mrs. Walker’s visit was an exciting opportunity to discuss our shared vision,” said Tammy Ellis, Marshfield Child Advocacy Center project manager. “Responding to trauma is the basis of our work and we look forward to a more resilient Wisconsin.”