Successful Implementation of Trauma-Informed Approaches in Crisis Services and Supports

February 2017-September 2017


SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care and Alternatives to Restraint and Seclusion (NCTIC) is pleased to announce the opportunity to participate in an upcoming Virtual Learning Network (VLN): “Successful Implementation of Trauma-Informed Approaches in Crisis Services and Supports."

According to SAMHSA’s publication: Crisis Services: Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Funding Strategies, “National statistics attest to the significant need for crisis services. In 2010, 2.2 million hospitalizations and 5.3 million emergency department visits involved a diagnosis related to a mental health condition. Not everyone will experience a need for crisis services but some factors man increase the risk of crisis such as poverty, unstable housing, coexisting substance use, and other physical health problems. The research base on the effectiveness of crisis service has been growing, with evidence that crisis stabilization, community-based short-term crisis care, peer crisis services, and mobile crisis services can divert people from unnecessary hospitalizations and insure the least restrictive treatment option. A continuum of crisis services can assist in reducing costs and address the problem that lead to the crisis.  The primary goal of these services is to stabilize and improve symptoms of distress and engage people in the most appropriate treatment. 

In response to these trends and statistics, more and more states/organizations have developed innovative crisis services/teams through the implementation of SAMHSA’s Trauma-Informed Approaches. 

SAMHSA’s NCTIC is now extending an invitation for up to six Crisis Services and Support organizations to apply, via a letter of intent, to a Virtual Learning Network technical assistance opportunity which will include monthly webinars with national experts as facilitators, on-site technical assistance/training, ongoing coaching, development of an action plan, and final report of outcomes. The VLN will center on SAMHSA’s principles of trauma-informed approaches and innovations from crisis services throughout the country.  

Eligible applicants include short-term crisis residential programs, crisis stabilization programs (i.e., community-based, ER, psychiatric ER), peer-run and other crisis respite programs, comprehensive psychiatric emergency response centers, emergency response recovery/detox programs, mobile crisis outreach programs.

The purpose of this VLN is to help participating organizations effectively implement trauma-informed approaches and learn from each other, as well as service recipients and other crisis service providers.  In the process, participating organizations will gain insights and strategically plan for creating crisis services and supports that “(1) realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery; (2) recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the crisis program; (3) respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and (4) seek to actively resist re-traumatization” (SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach, 2014).


The “working” classroom event consists of monthly facilitated virtual classroom presentations on the Adobe® Connect™ platform. Course work and materials will help participants understand and implement the principles of trauma-informed approaches in crisis services and support settings.  Sessions include a collaborative partnership with VLN colleagues – sharing challenges and innovations with other group members. Participants will also have access to ongoing coaching and may be able to receive on-site technical assistance.

Each organization will include three or more key staff members who will form an active virtual learning team and oversee implementation of trauma-informed approaches in their respective organizations. These staff members should be viewed as decision makers and staff who can implement change. It is strongly recommended that at least one of the participants self-identify as a trauma survivor and/or a person who has received crisis services.

This VLN will:

  1. Explore SAMHSA’s principles of trauma-informed care and implementation domains;
  2. Share best practices and practical perspectives from diverse guest presentations;
  3. Identify the opportunities and barriers for meaningful crisis services;
  4. Help participating organizations formulate action plans for innovative crisis services; and
  5. Provide individualized technical assistance to help organizations implement their action plans and sustain changes over time.


The VLN will be held from February – September 2017, with the following schedule:

  • January 27, 2017 – Solicit applications and select applicants
  • February 2017 – Introductory webinar/virtual classroom
  • March - May 2017 - Facilitated discussion and guest presentations introducing:
    • The principles of trauma-informed approaches;
    • The domains of trauma-informed organizational change; and
    • Best practices in crisis services, supports, and response from guest presenters.
  • June 2017 – Participants present Action Plans to the group
  • July – August 2017 – Facilitated discussions on innovations/challenges
  • September 2017 – Report by team members of final outcomes


Joan Gillece, Ph.D. has thirty-five years of experience working in the behavioral health field with twenty dedicated to trauma, and eleven in prevention of seclusion and restraint. Working across agencies, Dr. Gillece promotes the use of trauma informed care in multiple settings including mental health, substance abuse, adult and juvenile justice and homeless services.

Prior to joining the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) eleven years ago, Dr. Gillece served as Director of Special Populations for Maryland’s Mental Hygiene Administration where her responsibilities included all aspects of state mental health planning and delivery of services as well as development of collaboration across agencies serving individuals with psychiatric diagnosis.  As project director for SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (NCTIC), Dr. Gillece has championed the cause of full consumer integration and development of Culturally Competent programs. Utilizing survivors in all aspects of trauma work, Dr. Gillece has coordinated and provided technical assistance, conference presentations, and consultations to multiple systems across the country. . Commitment to strength-based support by implementing trauma informed values with the overreaching theme of healing has been her focus.vivors in all aspects of trauma work, Dr. Gillece has coordinated technical assistance, conference presentations, and consultations with experts in the field.  Commitment to strength based support by implementing trauma informed values with the overreaching theme of recovery has been her focus.

Raul Almazar RN, MA has many years of experience as direct care provider, administrator, organizational and clinical consultant, trainer, and speaker. He recently accepted the position of Senior Public Health Advisor for the National Association of Program Mental Health Directors’ Center for Innovations in Trauma Informed Approaches. He continues to serve as the Training and Technical Assistance Lead for the SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma Informed Care and Promoting Alternatives to Seclusion and Restraints. He has recently been involved in facilitating learning communities in the States of Ohio and Missouri and the City of Baltimore where the community engages in year-long project of healing and developing community resilience. Prior to working as full-time consultant in 2009, he served as Deputy Director for the State of Illinois Division of Mental Health where he was charged to facilitate an organizational culture shift in all 10 State -operated facilities towards person-centered, trauma-informed, recovery-promoting, non-coercive treatment settings. He provides consultation, training and technical assistance to organizations in the areas of leadership, workforce development, consumer empowerment, organizational planning and changing organizational cultures to effect systems transformation towards development of non-coercive, trauma-informed treatments. He has expertise in working with youth and adult serving, institutional and community based, publicly and privately –funded programs across service systems.

Leah Harris, M.A. has written and spoken widely about her lived experiences of trauma, addiction, serious mental health challenges, and healing/resilience. Leah is passionate about promoting trauma-informed approaches across systems, sectors, and communities. Leah works with the National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors’ (NASMHPD) where she is currently employed as Peer Integration Strategist. She provides training and technical assistance through SAMHSA’s National Center for Trauma Informed Care (NCTIC), and has worked with numerous organizations across the U.S. in her capacity as a Trauma-Informed Peer Support trainer. She is also a suicide attempt survivor who works to promote a trauma-informed approach to suicide prevention/intervention, and is a faculty member with the Zero Suicide initiative.


  1. Readiness for change. This might include:
    a. Level of leadership commitment
    b. Capacity to devote leadership and staff time 
  2. Ability to participate in all meetings using videoconferencing (includes virtual classrooms, consultation calls with assigned coach, and on-site training
  3. Ability to develop an action plan focused on implementation of TIA principles
  4. Willingness to identify and report on action plan progress during group and coaching calls
  5. Download and read SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for A Trauma-Informed Approach.


Please email Pam Rainer at with any questions, or to submit your letter of intent to participate in the VLN. 

Please include the following information:

  • Assigned point of contact from your organization along with the names, titles, and complete contact information for each member of the team. 
  • A brief description of your organization.
  • A stated agreement to participate in this process and to share progress and challenges with other VLN members. Please include a brief statement indicating how you will meet the participation criteria noted above.
  • A statement on any current challenges and/or opportunities regarding your organization’s efforts toward effective crisis services. 

We look forward to working with you to help agencies implement SAMHSA’s TIA principles and create sustainable change. 

Please respond by January 27, 2017 with your letter of intent to Pam Rainer at