Austin will soon be home to Texas' first trauma recovery center, a community space offering mental health treatment and community interventions related to violent crime, run through the local nonprofit African American Youth Harvest Foundation.

The big picture

Austin's trauma recovery center, or TRC, is based on a national model that had yet to arrive in Texas—until now. Austin's TRC will celebrate its opening Nov. 1 and operate alongside dozens of other services provided around AAYHF's east side resource center off Hwy. 290.

The new trauma recovery center's startup is supported by $1 million dedicated from Travis County and $1 million in funding from Austin covering two years of work.

County commissioners awarded a portion of federal recovery funds to the program back in the spring. City officials voted to fund the center this July after a community public safety task force recommended bringing a TRC to Austin, and following advocacy for the concept from Council Member Vanessa Fuentes.

The overview

Trauma recovery centers can serve as a "one-stop shop" for victims and others impacted by violence in their communities.

Calvin Kelly, chief clinical officer for the Austin program, said the center will be able to assist those affected by things such as domestic violence, grief and post-traumatic stress, and witnessing violent incidents.

Anyone seeking help at a TRC will find access to mental health treatment and other recovery services, such as relocation assistance or help navigating the justice system at no cost.

"Trauma is an umbrella for a myriad of issues," Kelly said. "We want to let them know that these services are here, they’re accessible, and we want them to take full and complete advantage of them."

Foundation CEO and founder Michael Lofton said Austin's TRC will be following in the footsteps of dozens of such facilities established in recent years beginning in the early 2000s in California.

“We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel. We plan to replicate the model that’s in San Francisco," he said. "We won’t have all of the resources that they have, but in time we hope to be able to go out to other grants to be able to bring us up to the capacity that they’re at. But we have a model, and that’s what we’re going to be working to."

Also of note

While the Austin facility will launch in line with proven practices, Lofton said it could end up offering more comprehensive support for community issues ranging from crime to suicide.

The youth harvest foundation is located in the same building as several other social service and government offices. Beyond the TRC itself, clients there will have easy access to health clinics, substance abuse treatment, tutoring, counseling and more, all under one roof.

“Full, wraparound one-stop shop of resources—nowhere in the United States will you find a model like this here," Lofton said. "That’s what makes us unique, I think. When they looked at our grant they saw that we already had mental health and substance abuse [resources], but it allowed us to take it to another level because what they also saw is that we had 25 other resources in the building that could complement."

Once it's open, resources at Austin's TRC will be available to all. Kelly also said the team is focusing on the importance of building up a program for historically underserved communities.

“There is a major shortage nationwide for mental health services for everyone, but that is specifically true for people of color; that that gap is much wider," he said.

Quotes of note

“People are safer when they are taken care of. We create community safety by making sure people have what they need to thrive—stable housing, dignified living wage jobs, health care, and mental health support to just name a few. This is why I’m proud to champion the first-ever Trauma Recovery Center here in Austin," Fuentes said in a statement. "This center, operated by African American Youth Harvest Foundation, will bring a new, forward-thinking vision of violence prevention by implementing a trauma-informed approach that will allow survivors to not only heal—but thrive. Together, we can foster a community that leads with empathy, reimagines community safety and leaves nobody behind.”
City Council members toured the African American Youth Harvest Foundation's trauma recovery center on Oct. 18. (Courtesy Adal Rivas, City Council District 2 Office)
City Council members toured the African American Youth Harvest Foundation's trauma recovery center on Oct. 18. (Courtesy Adal Rivas, City Council District 2 Office)
“When someone is dealing with trauma, they want to be able to come to a safe space," Program Director GeNell Gary said. "When they come here and see the collaborative effort that is going on and the resources and the outpouring of love, coming out of a traumatic situation this is a safe haven for them—that’s what I believe we want to create here, where it’s more of, ‘I’m not just getting treatment, but I’m also feeling the love.’"