Building Trauma Resilience, One City At A Time

by Rebecca Goggin

Why Louisville?

The idea of building trauma-informed organizations has been a top priority for many. But what would it look like to have an entire community dedicated to being trauma-responsive and focusing on building resilience? That was the five-million-dollar question that led the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities to Louisville, Kentucky.

The Louisville Metro Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) was awarded a 5-year, 5-million-dollar grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to build a trauma-resilient community. Together, in partnership with OSHN, the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work, Seven Counties Services, and Spalding University Collective Care Center, the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities (CTRC) set out to do just that. The Louisville TRC Project focused on three branches of intervention at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. CTRC’s focus was within the mezzo level of implementation, working closely with organizations small and large.  

The Work

A cornerstone of the mezzo intervention was to develop “Backbone Agencies” that received 4 to 5 years of training, coaching, and implementation support to become endorsed trauma-resilient organizations. Following the CTRC Theory of Change, each Backbone Agency set out to build resilience not only in their organizations but to collectively create a trauma-responsive community by embedding and embodying shared trauma knowledge and understanding across a system of care.

The need, excitement, and trepidation for this new project was evident from the beginning. The first training focused on formal agency leadership from each Backbone Agency, which then nominated champions to attend the 5-Day TRC Model Training and Champions Workshop. Throughout both trainings, many expressed the dire need for the culture change that the TRC Model could bring. Little did we know that the project would meet two significant events that changed Louisville, the country, and the world: COVID-19 and the killing of Breonna Taylor.  

^Participants  of the first cohort of the Louisville TRC Project. 

With these two events came disruption, change, and growth. The grieving process lasted throughout much of the grant’s second and third years, testing those who had been part of the initial first cohort. CTRC assists with building comprehensive tools and norms to address stress and trauma. Still, the question remained: how could CTRC support building a trauma-responsive community while the city experienced unprecedented trauma, pain, stress, and devastation? 


Utilizing the model and grant resources, the CTRC team partnered with community leaders and city officials to conduct racial healing forums. With the forums, extra time, and consultation support, the project sought momentum and change across the Backbone Agencies and the community. The community faced many challenges throughout this time, but the Backbone Agencies experienced in real-time real issues and how the TRC Model can assist in responding to trauma and adversity and, ultimately, how it helps to strengthen resilience.

As the 5th year of the grant has come to a close, CTRC has successfully trained 551 individuals at 72 different agencies and supported 91 Champion Trainers who have trained 2,978 individuals over the five years). This strong network of outstanding individuals has brought small grassroots organizations into partnerships with larger organizations to create a system of care with a common goal…making the city of Louisville a trauma-resilient community.