CLEVELAND — Cleveland City Council announced it will devote $2.7 million to treat trauma through counseling programs at 22 recreation centers across the city.
“A large portion of our community actually is dealing with adverse childhood experiences. A lot of our community is dealing with toxic stress and we want to provide a trauma-informed care model for our rec centers,” Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin said. “We want to go a step further. We want to provide the resources and the availability of social workers and psychologists. We want to make sure that we provide services to really help prevent violence and deal with the root causes of so many other things that cause our community to suffer.”
The legislation is geared toward providing resources for teens and their families by hiring professionals to treat generational trauma and toxic stress at centers frequented by teens and young adults in the Cleveland area.
“An idle mind is the devil's playground. All of that pent-up frustration that some of these young people have had and you add that to the impulsiveness of these interpersonal feuds that they might have emanated on social media,” Griffin said. “The structure of a school. They haven't been in the structure of their church. They haven't been in the structure of the community center or recreation center.”
Yvonka Hall of the Black Health Coalition has several concerns when it comes to the newly authorized project.
“That means having counselors and therapists that look like them within their community settings, treating the whole person, taking into account their past trauma, particularly violence,” Hall said. “Making sure that we have the confidentiality where people won't feel like they have been compromised. Confidentiality is a big thing, particularly when we're talking about mental health and this is mental health. If you're going into a counseling office in a recreation center, guess what? Everybody else in the recreation center knows that you just went into that counseling office.”
Hall said the ending of the federally funded midnight basketball program was a huge loss for the greater Cleveland area.
“That time between midnight and 5:00 a.m. is probably the deadliest time in urban America. Nontraditional hours may be something that can be looked at. Hours at the times where we start having violent issues,” Hall said. “Recreation centers should not be 9:00 to 5:00. They should not have a business model. Bring that back and actually have these wraparound services and trauma-informed care during that time, then it could be a game-changer for us.”
Griffin said the city cannot depend solely on federal grants to invoke change.
“Midnight basketball was wildly successful and it helped a lot of people and it was done in the peak hours when a lot of the violence took place. Like other programs that come from the federal level where the money comes and then when the money dries up, the program often dries up,” Griffin said .”What we have to do is create something that's sustainable, something that we cannot have to rely on grants that might have a three to five-year life cycle.”
Griffin said the resources will be implemented at community rec centers in the next couple of weeks, but he’s calling for lawmakers to get on board.
“Within the next couple of weeks, you'll start seeing the young people back and doing what they do. We have put the hoops back up on the courts. We put up up the baseball field so little by little we're getting back to normal,” Griffin said. “Until we really get the state and federal government to have our back, urban communities are always going to disproportionately suffer from the epidemic of violence.”