1st-of-its-kind training: Mayor Barrett announces MKE Trauma Response Initiative expansion

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MILWAUKEE -- Mayor Tom Barrett on Thursday, Feb. 15 joined the City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division’s Mobile Crisis Team and Milwaukee Fire Department to announce the first-of-its-kind expansion of the City-County Trauma Response Initiative at a training of EMTs and firefighters.

According to a news release, the training will be conducted with approximately 20 Milwaukee Fire Department leaders who will learn techniques to respond to injuries that could be potentially traumatic for children.

The Milwaukee Fire Department will be the first in the country to deploy this strategy system-wide.

The expansion did not happen in response to the mass shooting at a Florida high school, but for it to start the day after, is certainly timely.

"We want to train all of our first responders so that they are more aware of psychological trauma or in tune to it when they encounter it in the community, and more able to respond with what we call psychological first aide," said Dr. Steven Dykstra.


Tom Barrett

"What it does is, particularly for young kids who have been affected by violence -- we bring them to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Division, the wraparound services that the county has," Barrett said.

The Trauma Response Initiative started in 2015, with the county and Milwaukee police and health departments. Since then, services have been provided to 580 families, where 70 percent of children were exposed to domestic violence and 20 percent to battery.

"First aid and treatment help people to heal more successfully," Dr. Dykstra said.

Without help, some children who witness violence may suffer from learning disorders, health problems and may be at a greater risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence.

The first responders can help ensure children get immediate counseling and support after a traumatic event.

"I think people don't realize that the vast majority of calls that they receive are not for fires but are for emergency services, so this is really in their sweet spot," Barrett said.

The training will be recorded live and used to train the remaining 600 EMTs and firefighters within the MFD. The goal is to expand the program to more first responders, including private paramedics and EMT companies.

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