Advocates For Trauma-Informed Care Make Their Case To Milwaukee-Area Corporate Leaders

Sep 9, 2019

More Milwaukee-area business leaders are being urged to help employees who experienced trauma earlier in their lives. Advocates for what's called "trauma-informed care" say it will help the bottom line. 

More research is showing that people who experience psychological trauma can carry negative effects with them for a long time. All the way to when they're working as adults. 

Tim Grove is senior consultant with the trauma-informed care unit at the former Saint Aemilian-Lakeside treatment center, which is now called Saint A. Grove says take for example, a worker who learned as a child that survival is his or her top priority.

"So what happens often in workforce conflict, is that someone detects threats in the interest of survival — that may or may not have been a threat objectively, but was clearly a threat to them. And that [might] lead to an incident, an interaction, that sort of has their manager or supervisor respond with a predictable conclusion of, 'I'm sorry you can't work here anymore,’ " Grove told WUWM.

Grove says trauma-informed care tries to get workers and managers to better understand what's going on, to build in prevention techniques for better responses. He cautions that people with one or many early traumatic experiences are only at higher risk of having later problems, but that not everyone will act. 

Bill Harrigan (left) of Harrigan Solutions, speaks to the Greater Milwaukee Committee. (From left) Bill Krugler of Milwaukee Jobs Work, Alicia Dupies of Capri Communities, Frank Cumberbatch of Bader Philanthropies and Ralph Metzner of FEI look on.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Still, at a forum Monday sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Bader Philanthropies' Frank Cumberbatch urged corporate and nonprofit leaders in the audience to examine their organization.

"Are your policies in the office counter-productive to healing folks? You have to create some safe spaces for them to come forward, and say, 'I need help,' " Cumberbatch said.

Some local companies and agencies are getting on board with trauma-informed care. A coalition called Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM) is spreading the word.

After attending Monday's meeting, Greg Marcus, CEO of the Marcus Corporation, spoke of creating that safe place for his employees to speak up.

"Where we're saying look, 'We don't want to know, I don't want to know what your problems are. I want you to know what the problem is. I don’t need to know. I just want to know you're getting help for it,' " Marcus told WUWM.

Marcus says he'll be talking with his human resources managers about trauma-informed care in the workplace. The Marcus Corporation has about 10,000 employees, he says.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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