April 1st, 2015

Center a resource for marathon bombing victims

Although it’s been two years since the Boston Marathon bombings, many victims are just now beginning to experience its lingering effects. The Massachusetts Resiliency Center was formed to assist them in getting the help they need – whether it is for physical or mental health concerns or things such as financial assistance or social supports.

The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) received a federal grant for more than $8 million to fund services for bombing victims and selected Boston Medical Center to manage operations of the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, for which approximately $1.9 million of the funding is allocated. The center opened its Boston office in October and includes three psychologists spearheading the effort – Executive Director Kermit Crawford, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral Health Shamila Khan, Ph.D. and Program Director Kevin Becker, Psy.D.

The center is a central hub of resources for anyone who was impacted by the bombing including those who were at the marathon that day, family members, law enforcement, hospital workers or journalists. “We have cast a really wide net,” Becker said.

The grant runs through the end of June 2016 and Becker said there are options to extend beyond that date. “We are also working on our own sustainability plan to help extend our viability,” he said. “After disaster, it’s often three, five or even seven years later that people start to see a connection between what they went through and what is going on in their lives, so we hope to be around for the long haul so we can be available to those folks.”

Recovering from trauma is a developmental process. “You have to re-digest it time and time again, and really heal over time,” Becker said.

The center employs a resiliency and strength-based model; services are free for victims. The collaborative model includes on-site services and also arrangements and contracts with collaborators in the community, including the Trauma Center at JRI, the Cambridge Health Alliance, the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology.

Regular forums are held on relevant topics from hearing loss or brain injury to methods of relaxation or preparing for the holidays.

“We’re also establishing video conferring capabilities so we can connect with survivors across the country,” said Becker, noting the marathon’s international participation.

Becker said MOVA is going to be implementing a behavioral health services plan that will pay providers from throughout the country to treat victims, provided the provider has gone through an approved training and credentialing.

The Massachusetts Resiliency Center has a Survivor Advisory Panel that includes about 25 survivors. “They help direct us and guide us around what kind of programming and support and resources that we should be trying to provide,” Becker said. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with that panel since our inception.”

The advisory panel has weighed in on everything from what resources are needed, to what the office should look like, such as recommending cork flooring because of its ability to absorb sound. “We put a lot of thought into making it a place that was appropriate and welcoming for survivors,” Becker said.

Becker encourages psychologists who have clients impacted by the bombing to refer them to the center. “We might be able to provide resources for them or just connect them to a group of people who have been through a similar experience,” he said.

This spring is a critical time for survivors, with the anniversary of the bombings, the marathon and the trial. The center will be supporting survivors at the courthouse during the trial. “For folks who are kind of still reeling a little from what happened, there are a lot of things converging at once,” Becker said. Becker stressed that the center is not just for those who suffered physical injuries. “There were many people who were impacted with what we talk about as invisible wounds who still need some resources and some support. We want them to know that this is a place that’s available to them,” he said. For more information, call (844)-STRONG1.

By Pamela Berard

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