Newsletter October 2019

Treatment and Prevention

Dr. Dani Meier, PhD, LMSW

Chief Clinical Officer

Gender-Responsive, Trauma-Focused Training Brought to Region 5

Broad public awareness of trauma arose primarily during the 20th century in relation to men returning from wars in Europe and Asia. Nomenclature like “shell shock” and “battle fatigue” were followed by the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the Vietnam War. That diagnosis was formally recognized by the APA in the Diagnostic Statistic Manual (DSM-III) in 1980. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw a significant rise in PTSD diagnoses, which contributed to the suicide rate for 18 to 34-year-old veterans rising by almost 80% from 2005 to 2016. It wasn’t till 2013, moreover, that women were allowed to serve in combat positions, so discussions of PTSD were still largely focused on men.

It’s not a surprise therefore that our field was late in acknowledging--much less understanding and addressing--women’s trauma and how that trauma intersects with addiction, recovery and mental health. It took pioneers to forge that path, and thanks to a State-Targeted Response (STR) grant from MDHHS and SAMHSA, MSHN was able to bring one of those pioneers to Lansing to train 200 professionals from across our region’s SUD and CMH networks.

Dr. Stephanie Covington is an internationally renowned speaker and trainer. Last month, she presented in Lansing on gender-responsive and trauma-informed programming. She traced how developers of trauma-based treatment attempted to make their programs more “relevant” to women (starting in the 1980s) by simply changing the pronouns in existing curricula from “he” to “she.” This was common despite an awareness of gender differences permeating even popular culture with books like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

The training alerted attendees to the high correlation between mental health, addiction and histories of trauma. Women report a higher number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and girls and women report trauma and abuse that’s usually perpetrated by someone they trust, a family member or an intimate partner. Women have been disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic, for example, because women are more likely to utilize the health care system than men and thus have historically been prescribed medications at a higher rate than men. Women represent a 400% increase in opioid-related deaths compared to a 237% increase for men.

The good news is that gender-responsive training is tailoring treatment to the unique needs of women and men struggling with addictions. And thanks to trainings like this one, our CMH and SUD provider networks continue to evolve in becoming more gender-responsive and more trauma-competent in working with our region’s most vulnerable citizens.

For further information, please contact Dani, at