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The Rev. Dr. Andre Humphrey has worked for the last five years to keep alive a trauma response team that assists youth and communities affected by crime.

For 13 years, the Rev. Dr. Andre Humphrey worked with a violence reduction program in Baltimore City designed to assist youth and communities as they worked to process the trauma of violent crime. Five years after the program ended due to lack of funding, Humphrey has continued his efforts, recruiting volunteers and ministering to families and communities affected by Baltimore’s high incidence of violence.

From 1996 to 2009, the Baltimore Child Development-Community Policing Program operated as a partnership between Johns Hopkins University and the Baltimore City Police Department, according to Dr. Philip Leaf who spearheaded the initiative.

The program focused on child carnage of violent crime – the witnesses, victims and even the criminal suspects – and the community at the center of the violence. A trauma team of clinicians, clergy, police, and community members mobilized at crime scenes to provide mental health services and other resources as quickly as process, in hopes of effectively starting and supporting
the grieving process and reducing the recurrence and negative consequences of the violence. The team also followed- up to offer any needed ongoing assistance.

With funding and support dwindling, the program disbanded in 2009. Humphrey, who lost his son to gun violence in 1997, has worked to keep it alive. “I live the trauma piece every day,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey has not only known trauma, he has worked with youth in the juvenile justice system since the 1980s, when he began volunteering at the Charles Hickey School, a juvenile detention and treatment center in Baltimore.

The usual narratives about how youth end up in the juvenile justice system are lacking he says, and are the result of not taking the time to understand why youth act out at times. “I’ve met several kids who are just looking for love,” said Humphrey.

He notes that many young people suffer from mental health issues that are ill served by the juvenile justice system.

For these reasons Humphrey kept the trauma response team going, operating on a volunteer basis while collecting donations whenever possible. He understands the importance of intervening with children affected by trauma before it begins to affect their decision-making. “If some of these kids had someone to talk to and to be evaluated right on the spot, a lot of things they were anticipating doing they wouldn’t do, such as the violence,” said Humphrey.

Apostle Clarence Hooper has worked with Humphrey on the trauma response team for three months. He said the team provides an important service not only to families, but also to police officers affected by the constant stress of responding to Baltimore’s violent-crime scenes.

“Everybody is going through trauma,” said Hooper. “The police department, they go through a lot of stress, they need someone who they can talk to. The people in the street will not talk directly with the police department because they don’t trust them, but as clergy they’re willing to sit down and talk with us.”

Former Baltimore City Police Officer Teresa Rigby-Menendez is another volunteer with the response team. Rigby-Menendez retired from the force in January, because of injuries from a work-related accident. She was struck by her a vehicle while assisting a motorist on I-83, and pushed off the interstate, falling 30 feet and suffering various injuries. She volunteered because she understands the importance of continued support in the face of trauma.

“I want to have people  that once you see walking better or once their wounds heal,  doesn’t mean they don’t need that support, that they don’t need someone behind them helping them.

At the end of the day when they’re alone, they think about that, they think about what happened to them, and how it occurred, and it affects them,” said Rigby-Menendez.

Humphrey is working to reestablish funding for the team. He said police officials are supportive of its work, but are reluctant to being responsible for the safety of non-police personnel. Comments from the Baltimore City Police Department and the Mayor’s
Office on Criminal Justice were not available by deadline.

Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO