The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems and What That Does to the People Who Work in it

Presented by:

Sandra L. Bloom, M.D.

Co-Director, Center for Nonviolence and Social JusticeAssociate Professor, Health Management and Policy at the School of Public Health of Drexel University in Philadelphia

Session Description:

The nation’s mental health and social service systems have been under relentless assault, with dramatically rising costs and the fragmentation of service delivery rendering them incapable of ensuring the safety, security, and recovery of their clients. The resulting organizational trauma both mirrors and magnifies the trauma-related problems their clients seek relief from. Just as the lives of people exposed to chronic trauma and abuse become organized around the traumatic experience, so too have our social service systems become organized around the recurrent stress of trying to do more under greater pressure: they become crisis-oriented, authoritarian, disempowered, and demoralized, often living in the present moment, haunted by the past, and unable to plan for the future.

Complex interactions among traumatized clients, stressed staff, pressured organizations, and a social and economic climate that is often hostile to recovery efforts recreate the very experiences that have proven so toxic to clients in the first place. Healing is possible for these clients if they enter helping, protective environments, yet toxic stress has destroyed the sanctuary that our systems are designed to provide.

This thoughtful, impassioned critique of business as usual begins to outline a vision for transforming our mental health and social service systems.


The Rockefeller University
Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS)


Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

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