Helping victims of violence deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD

Jashawnda Dunigan, 41, has been seeing a therapist at OSF HealthCare in Peoria, Ill., since her stepson died in September 2020—shot and killed shortly after his 21st birthday.

The family’s court advocate suggested Dunigan and her husband reach out to OSF Strive Trauma Recovery Center, a program OSF HealthCare launched to help victims of violent crimes dealing with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Strive program provides those who have experienced a violent crime, as well as those affected, like family members, free counseling and connects them with other wraparound services.

“When you go through murder (by) gun violence, it shatters you,” Dunigan said. This wasn’t her first traumatic experience with gun violence; in 2013, Dunigan’s brother and his girlfriend were shot and killed in their home. The same day, Dunigan’s brother-in-law died after being physically attacked.

In addition to a therapist, who Dunigan meets with once every two weeks, the Strive program also connected her with a case manager who can share community resources and social services. Dunigan hasn’t needed much help—she has a background in family and community resources—but so far, the case manager has worked with her to sign up for health insurance.

Dunigan said therapy has helped her work through questions and emotions, including reminding her that it’s OK to feel angry.

“You’re going to hurt,” Dunigan said. “You don’t just get over it overnight. You learn to live through this. … It’s OK to not be OK. That’s one thing that Strive has helped me to understand.”

OSF HealthCare opened Strive in 2017 after receiving a three-year, $1 million grant from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority to fund programs at Level 1 trauma centers that help victims of violent crime. Strive is modeled after a program at the University of California  San Francisco, called the Trauma Recovery Center.

The trauma recovery center model, which started in 2001 with the UCSF Trauma Recovery Center, has since been replicated across the U.S.

Stacey Wiggall, director of the trauma recovery center technical assistance program at the National Alliance of Trauma Recovery Centers and UCSF Trauma Recovery Center, said she advocates for funding trauma recovery centers with an annual budget of $1 million, since the programs can save costs related to untreated trauma—like unexpected emergency department visits and inability to work.

“There’s a huge cost to untreated trauma,” Wiggall said.

Trauma recovery centers tend to be funded through the federal Victims of Crime Act, also known as VOCA. Although it is federal money, states administer the funds to such programs as OSF HealthCare’s Strive.

The Strive program has seen an estimated 80% increase in patient stability among its client population and a decrease in 90% of client symptomology, including symptoms related to depression, anxiety and PTSD. It’s been so successful that OSF HealthCare earlier this year opened a second site in Rockford, Ill.

“Sometimes people just need a hand,” said Dawn Lochbaum, manager of the Strive program at OSF HealthCare St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.


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