David Guizar was 17 years old when his brother Oscar was murdered in 1983. Guizar turned to a life of drugs, alcohol and gangs. After leaving that lifestyle decades later, his other brother Gilbert was murdered in 2012, and Guizar was tempted to return to that life.
It’s because of the life experience like Guizar’s and many others that a call to action has been made to create a center to help with victims of crimes; on Thursday, the Long Beach Traumatic Recovery Center was opened to the public for an open house event at Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach.
Tours were made around the facility as guides walked attendees into a special in-depth look at how the center worked.
“Some of the clients that we see are those that have had someone murdered in their family, said CSULB professor and licensed marriage and family therapist Debora Luken. “[LBTRC sees] victims of shootings, domestic violence, sexual assaults and victims of trafficking.”
Luken shared that the average person who enters the facility has experienced at least six traumatic losses.
Bita Ghafoori, a professor at CSULB and LBTRC Director, said that the recovery center has already serviced around 100 individuals.
Clients get into the center by referrals from outreach efforts made by CSULB students throughout the Long Beach community, such as women shelters, emergency rooms, police departments and the gay and lesbian centers.
One of the programs that the center uses to connect with its patients is called “A Window Between Worlds,” an art program for trauma survivors that will help them to express themselves in how they are feeling.
There are also some programs aimed at children with traumatic experiences.
An easy way to help children understand and deal through experiences with perpetrators, Luken said, is with in-game-mastery.
Toy figures are used to symbolize certain characters involved with the child’s traumatic experience. The child then is encourage to do deal with each character in a way that will make them feel more at ease.
“Children can react differently to trauma than adults. Mainly because of their brains that are still developing, and they also don’t have the verbal skills of adults” said Luken.
Ghafoori said that sometimes the idea of running around the city, hospitals, social service providers and agencies might prevent someone from seeking help in the first place.
LBTRC also helps victims with low incomes that usually average at least $12,000 a year, Ghafoori said.
The LBTRC not only has CSULB professors working in the facility, but also CSULB graduate students trying to learn how to work with patients.
CSULB President Jane Close Conoley spoke at the open house, praising the recovery center for providing a good training ground for student interns.
“The idea that the center can provide real, challenging work that will improve and advance the intern’s clinical skills is a marvelous way to add value to their education, and that’s what we are about at CSULB to make sure that our degrees have value,” Conoley said.
CSULB graduate student Shirien Kiani said she feels that the experience working at the LBTRC has helped improve herself as a social worker.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time working here at the center,” she said. “I’ve been learning so much about the different types of traumas and how it can affect someone, and I’m really happy that I get to help these people.”
Drew Gagner, Foundation President at Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center, is very pleased with how the CSULB and St. Mary partnership is affecting the community
“It’s a perfect example [of] how we are able to join both powerhouses in the city,” he said. “The university with its expertise in mental health and trauma, and St. Mary Medical Center with our trauma facility. We’ve always prided ourselves on doing what we can for the whole body in mind and spirit and this program really compliments that.”
The LBTRC’s hours of operation are from Mon through Fri, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m