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Maryland Launches Statewide Movement To Heal Those Affected By Trauma

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Baltimore city and state leaders have taken the late Congressman Elijah Cummings legacy and applied it to the statewide movement of healing those affected by trauma.

Now Charm City is a role model for the rest of the state, and potentially the entire country through the Healing Maryland's Trauma Act.

Councilman Zeke Cohen helped bring this dream to reality in Baltimore City as the area erected its own Trauma-Informed Task Force.

"Let the healing begin in every corner of our state," said Cohen as he announced the signing of the statewide bill aimed to carry out this work.

As youth advocates explain, trauma is not just witnessing or falling victim to violence. Trauma can manifest out of homelessness, drug addiction, being in a home where abuse is happening, witnessing violence, food insecurity and more.

"If we are able to get to the root of the trauma we can give people hope," said Young Elder, the creator of Heart Smiles MD.

In Baltimore City, tackling trauma looks a lot like counseling, providing resources, creating safe spaces mediation and other interactive tools to help people cope with trauma. The program was partially developed by youth advocates who said they are tired of living to just survive.

Task force member Destini Philpot said she wants to live: "we have not been afforded the luxury of time and thus my city my people are deprived Of love and tortured by generational trauma."

State Senator Jill Carter and Delegate Robbyn Lewis know trauma exists outside city limits, hence why they wanted the entire state to tackle trauma and become experts at trauma response.

"Throughout my career I have pushed Maryland to invest in systems of care, instead of systems of incarceration. This legislation marks an important moment in our history, as we embrace healing," said Carter in a statement.

"We are breaking generational curses right now because Baltimore is able to be the catalyst, "Young Elder said. "Help all those other cities and all those other states understand how to work with people who have been traumatized."

Agency leaders across Maryland will be trained in trauma response and trauma-informed services will be provided to young people affected by hardships.

Cohen said, in doing so, lives will be saved.

"We know that trauma literally makes people sick," he said. "Accumulated adverse childhood experiences take years off of your life."

After six shootings in the last 24 hours, Cohen said we need to address the root causes.

"For every bad act we see in Baltimore there are hundreds of healers who are fighting to breathe life into our streets, our schools, our churches and mosques," he added.

Addressing systemic racism, curbing violence and working to heal the state is where we must start, he said.

"Baltimoreans are the medicine and we are the cure," Cohen said.

The commission will then submit its findings annually to the governor, Maryland General Assembly and the state health department to develop a framework for an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Aware Program.

"Trauma, as I have experienced since childhood, is embedded into our very livelihoods, in the food that we eat, to the shows that we watch, to the relationships we take part in. We begin to change and heal our community by addressing trauma and creating trauma-informed spaces, especially for youth," said Destini Philpot, a youth leader on the Baltimore City Trauma Informed Care Task Force.

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