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Ordinance Making Baltimore 'Trauma-Responsive' City Passes Council's Health Committee

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- An ordinance intended to address the prevention and treatment of childhood trauma unanimously passed through the Baltimore City Council's health committee Tuesday.

The legislation, originally proposed by Councilman Zeke Cohen, will create a task force to train city agencies on how to recognize symptoms of trauma and then how to properly respond.

At Tuesday's meeting, councilmembers also voted to rename the ordinance the Elijah Cummings Healing City Act after the late congressman.

"Young people that witness violence and don't receive any support are themselves likely to eventually become victims or perpetrators unless we intervene," Cohen said.

Cohen said he was inspired by the testimony from students who survived a shooting at Frederick Douglass High School in February that left a special education teacher injured and was outraged after four people were shot, two of whom were critically injured, next door to a playground after school had been dismissed.

"In any other place, they would call it a mass shooting, but here in Baltimore, the reaction was almost none," Cohen said.

He posed a question: instead of punishing our way out of our problems, how do we prevent violence before it occurs?

Inside City Hall, community leaders took to the podium to speak about the importance of investing resources in recognizing the signs of trauma and how to best treat it.

"While we work to dismantle the systems which inflict undue trauma on our students, we must acknowledge in the impact of that trauma in our classrooms and promote the healing that our young people need," said Cristina Duncan Evans, the chair of the teacher chapter of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

The initiative will bring together elected officials, doctors, social workers and law enforcement -- anyone who works closely with children and families.

"Our young people need to understand that they live in a city where adults are for them and we understand that they go through situations and circumstances in life and you ought not to be criminalized for the traumas that you experience in life," said Ryan Turner with Community Law and Action.

Cohen said he has yet to figure out how much the program will cost.

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