Crime survivors from across Illinois will travel to Springfield on Thursday to ask for more services for trauma recovery throughout the state.
Most victims do not receive resources such as counseling after a crime, even though trauma can result in anxiety, depression and things like a fear of leaving home, which can lead to financial burdens and emotional distress.
Advocates will ask legislators to push for more trauma recovery centers — comprehensive clinics, often aligned with hospitals, where survivors can get an array of services: counseling, legal assistance, access to support groups.
"A trauma recovery center is kind of that one-stop shop," said Aswad Thomas, managing director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which coordinated the event as part of a series in different states. The group advocates for reducing crime and incarceration, and increasing services and support for survivors.
Thomas is a survivor of crime; he was shot twice in the back in 2009 in Massachusetts, a moment that ended his basketball career.
"For me, the hardest part wasn't the physical recovery; it was actually the psychological recovery of dealing with the trauma, the PTSD, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the depression," he said. "I was left to deal with that incident on my own."
Right now, Illinois has two centers, which both opened in the fall — the Advocate Trauma Recovery Center, at a location hospital officials do not disclose, and in Peoria as a partnership between OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center and Peoria Public Schools. The services offered in Peoria include The Wraparound Center in Trewyn School, Manual Academy, an office at Pecan and Jefferson, and in the OSF emergency rooms.
Peoria resident Terry Burnside said his brother was shot and killed in 1989, and in the decades since, his son and daughter also have been shot.
One of the hardest parts of being affected by gun violence, he said, was "just dealing with the stuff that we're left behind with, the remnants."
Particularly in areas around the state that might have fewer resources than Chicago, combining services and making them easily accessible are key, Thomas said. "We're working to not just create and expand services to Chicago and Peoria, but we want to make sure cities like Rockford and East St. Louis get the resources that they need, because right now there aren't a lot of services for those smaller cities."
After meeting with Illinois crime victims recently, Thomas said many were unaware of, or experienced difficulties utilizing, resources like the state's Crime Victim Compensation Program.
"Things like counseling, therapy, relocation support, safe housing, those support services that are meant for victims, what we hear from our survivors across the state is that the majority of victims don't get access to those services," Thomas said.
Only 8 percent of victims receive assistance from a service agency, according to a 2018 study from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The Advocate Trauma Recovery Center was opened in partnership with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, which was authorized by recent legislation to develop trauma recovery services for violent crime victims in underserved communities with high levels of violent crimes.
It serves survivors of many different types of crime: domestic violence, hate crimes, sexual assault, physical assault. Services include therapy, advocacy groups and medication management.