Envisioning a Trauma-Informed New Orleans


Following Hurricane Katrina there has been a lack of investment in mental health services in New Orleans. To address this gap, in 2016 a team made up of journalist Jarvis DeBerry and IWES staff members Lisa Richardson and Iman Shervington was chosen by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to join the first cohort of their Culture of Health Leaders (CoHL) program. Following RWJF’s Culture of Health Leaders framework and commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Team spent two years in leadership development courses and convenings and in their third and final year they have been developing a “strategic initiative” to build a Culture of Health in New Orleans. The initiative builds on the success of IWES’ city-wide, public will campaign, In That Number, and in conjunction with the City’s Childhood Trauma task force they have posed the question, “What would a trauma-informed New Orleans look like?”

To kick off the initiative, in December 2018 we hosted a community-wide charrette to ask local residents which areas of the city need to be more trauma-informed. Around 50 people attended the event to learn more about signs and symptoms of trauma, hear from expert panelists and those that have experienced trauma, explore their own relationships to trauma through organized discussion with mental health professionals, and generate ideas on how to make New Orleans more trauma informed. Findings from that event, along with the results of an assessment IWES conducted on the quantity and quality of behavioral health services in the city, have helped the Team to chart a direction to convert its city-wide campaign into an actionable social marketing campaign.


With partnerships in the criminal justice (The Welcoming Project) and education sectors (Black Education for New Orleans/BE NOLA), the New Orleans Team is relaunching In That Number with Calls to Action (CTAs) taken directly from formative research with members and constituents of each organization. This Spring IWES held focus groups with nearly 50 educators, parents and school personnel convened by BE NOLA, and youth Fellows from the Welcoming Project. At the end of each group participants generated ideas and strategies to make their sectors more trauma-informed, which are being used to create the campaign’s CTAs. Through more surveys and meetings, Team members are finalizing the language and messaging around the final CTAs, as well as working with people from each sector to release new narratives focusing on their experiences in each sector and the new CTAs.

In That Number will relaunch this Fall through new (social media, website) and traditional (billboards, news outlets) media outlets, as well as print media. This work coincides with IWES' participation in the Childhood Trauma taskforce, which was created last Summer to make New Orleans a more trauma-informed city. Ultimately, the goals of the project include: 1) changing the conversation around health in the city to ensure the inclusion of social determinants of health and psychological well-being; 2) preparing individuals, organizations, and institutions to do their work through a trauma-informed lens; 3) reducing stigma around the utilization of behavioral health services, and 4) catalyzing action to advocate for an increase in both the amount and variety of affordable, quality and culturally resonant mental health services.

Keep up with the In That Number campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn about our new developments, as well as find out what our final Calls To Action will be!

Iman ShervingtonComment