Long-time mental health expert named new state director for trauma care

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Gov. Josh Green has announced his pick to head a new state agency tasked with helping people deal with childhood trauma and other mental health issues.

Tia Roberts Hartsock will be the new director of the Governor’s Office of Health and Resiliency effective Jan. 17.

She is a mental health veteran who helps young women who have survived trauma in the criminal justice and child welfare systems as part of a federal initiative at the state Department of Health.

“Trauma-informed care is an approach to understanding the pervasiveness of trauma in our lives,” explained Hartsock. “So awareness and education around that and how traumatic events affect the way we think, learn, concentrate, respond to stress.”

The state Legislature earlier this year appropriated nearly $900,000 to create the semi-autonomous state agency.

It is the first of its kind in the nation with an ambitious goal – to tackle the root cause of society’s biggest problems and hopefully reduce crime, substance abuse, suicide, human trafficking and homelessness.

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“If we do a good job of having better policy and less trauma, we won’t have as much expense,” Green said. “We’re going to save a lot of resources that we can spend on other things, because maybe then those who are incarcerated will get their lives back faster.”

Nearly 40% of children and two-thirds of adults in the United States have experienced psychological trauma.

Some state departments have social workers, but they barely scratch the surface. Green said the all-state team is a game-changer.

“A small strike force, frankly, let’s say six people with expertise to go and help them prepare to embed a trauma-informed service and policy and their departments will be fine,” he said.

Hartsock chairs the multi-agency National Trauma Informed Task Force, created in 2021 in response to the increased trauma caused by the global pandemic.

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“We all do it in our own way. We all have our own kind of definitions, our own ways of interpreting principles. “We have our own ways of training people, but there is no coordinated effort to systematically standardize it,” Hartsock said.

She added that she plans to implement the group’s framework.

“I would like the office to think about ways to standardize the approach so that everyone is speaking the same language, having the same outcomes and goals as far as what treatment looks like, what resilience building looks like and does that.” through a framework that can infuse our uniqueness that we have in Hawaii.”

Many say they are encouraged by the state’s shift from punishment to healing.

“Identifying as a victim of trauma, you know, recognizing what kind of trauma I’ve been through, was a huge part of getting to a place where I could actually heal from it and not seep into all the other areas of my life. , my relationships, my career, my well-being,” said Diana Bejasha Gremillion, a 9/11 survivor and trauma-informed life coach.

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Green said he would also prioritize cultural competency to better connect with non-English-speaking communities, such as Micronesians, who are disproportionately incarcerated.

He is also working on hiring incentives to address a severe shortage of mental health workers.

“Covid has created a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder environment for society,” Green said. “People couldn’t do what they normally do, they couldn’t see their families, they were often economically challenged or threatened.”

Green added that this change comes at a time of rebuilding.

“There is a lot to be done. And so I think they have a big job ahead of them in the Office of Wellness.”


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