Over the years, Philadelphia has implemented a number of approaches to strengthen local communities. In particular, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) has implemented multiple programs that reach our neighborhoods— some examples include Mental Health First Aid, Faith and Spiritual Affairs, and Healing Hurt People.

One gap that local communities have identified is neighborhood-based opportunities for healing, particularly for those who experience violence regularly. Many of us are aware of violence daily; it happens in our communities, in our children’s schools, in our neighbor’s homes. We read the news reports, we see the videos online, we hear the negative rhetoric, and overall we feel unsafe, uncertain about who we can trust and who we can’t.

Experiencing repeated community violence can make us isolate from others and feel afraid. Connection with social supports is a critical part of healing after trauma. Even with the current array of behavioral health services available, there is a need for a coordinated network of locals who are trained to provide support to communities after violent incidents.

In response to the community’s need, DBHIDS developed a citywide initiative to recruit, train, and mobilize Philadelphians who are committed to supporting their communities after incidents of violence. This initiative, named the Network of Neighbors Responding to Violence, allows communities to join together and talk about their reactions to the violence. This approach promotes social cohesion, healing, and growth.

In addition to bringing affected communities together, the Network training includes structures for making referrals to other local resources that the community may need. Particularly, if someone has been deeply affected by an incident, the Network can share information about additional supports.

During three days in mid-June, over 100 Philadelphians were trained in Psychological First Aid and Post-Traumatic Stress Management, two evidence-informed techniques for decreasing stress and building emotional health following violence. This dedicated group is our first cohort of Trauma Responders who will be activated to support their communities.

Using a population health approach of bringing services to communities and making resources available to everyone, the Network has trained Trauma Responders throughout the City and will continue to expand into neighborhoods. In addition to individual and group supports, Trauma Responders will share information about the impact of trauma and how we can develop coping strategies that promote wellness in ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Without support, we often live in isolation and fear. Coming together helps eliminate that fear.

Anyone can join the Network of Neighbors! To help our communities, we need your involvement. If you are interested in learning more about the Network of Neighbors, visit our website DBHIDS.org/NetworkofNeighbors, email us at NetworkofNeighbors@phila.gov, or follow us on Twitter @PhilaNeighbNet