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MI-Tri County TRN Supports the Oxford High School Community

TRN Fosters Community Healing in the Wake of the Oxford School Shooting

November 30, 2021 is a day that forever changed the community of Oxford Township, MI with a mass shooting at Oxford High School that claimed the lives of four people and injured many more. Right away, members of the MI-Tri County TRN knew they wanted to respond and address the trauma students, staff, families, and community members were experiencing.

Co-coordinators Christine Muska and Jennifer Shields worked with co-founders Dr. Harriet Mall and Dr. Miriam Engstrom to reinvigorate their current TRN members, recruit new volunteer members, and make the necessary connections to best serve their community at a time of great need.

History of Service

When the MI-Tri County TRN officially formed in 2018, members had already been serving their community for at least a year. Co-founder Dr. Harriett Mall saw a need among a local group of firefighters for trauma services and began providing pro-bono EMDR therapy. She soon joined forces with Dr. Miriam Engstrom to co-found the MI-Tri County TRN.

In the first several years, they worked primarily with firefighters and police officers, setting up a system of referrals through police dispatch. The TRN also received referrals related to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case involving athletes.

Then, the COVID19 pandemic hit, followed by the school shooting at Oxford High School, followed by the war in Ukraine.

“It’s such an unprecedented time, we have a pandemic and then we have a shooting…we have a war, we have a big Ukrainian population here. Someone reached out saying my mother is lost. I’m terrified. She’s in the city that’s being bombed. I need help to feel grounded. There’s just so much…” shared Christine Muska, TRN Coordinator.

Reaching Out for Support

Early in their response efforts, co-coordinators Christine and Jennifer realized they were going to need more help and more volunteers. They leaned on current members, as well as relationships outside the TRN, to recruit new volunteers.

When they contacted the EMDR Institute, Executive Director Robbie Dunton gladly shared their call for support with the Institute’s network of EMDR trained clinicians and through that effort the TRN gained roughly 12 new members.

Coordinator Christine contacted the governor and asked for approval to seek help from EMDR therapists nationwide, which would require temporarily waiving restrictions based on state licensure. They are hopeful this ask will be approved.

They also found help within our network of TRNs; content for updating their website from a California TRN and shared experience and learnings from TRNs who have responded specifically to school shootings.

Jennifer shared, “I feel very grateful. I feel like this TRN is very bonded. I feel we’re very unique and I could not be paired up with a better set of colleagues and partners in this journey we’re all on. We’re very cohesive, always texting each other, checking in with each other. There’s a set of volunteers that we are working with that we’ve worked closely with for years. It’s an amazing experience when you reach out for help and that person is right there for you.”

Bringing Trauma Healing to Families of the Oxford School Shooting

In the six months since the terrible shooting at Oxford High School, the MI-Tri County TRN has provided continued support to the local community and foresees the need for these services to continue for several years.

TRN members have provided over 220 pro-bono individual therapy sessions to 40 individuals, including both adults and children. While they offer up to 10 free sessions per individual, members are often providing beyond that at 12-17 sessions.

“We have students who were probably the most critically impacted, whose symptoms were so acute that they couldn’t attend school or couldn’t leave their home and now they’re finding that they can return to school,” shared Jennifer. “They can bond with their peers. They are socializing.”

She also spoke of a mother who texts her weekly, almost in disbelief that her child is doing so well after ongoing therapy sessions. She can’t express her thanks enough to the TRN.

The progress and healing members are seeing through providing EMDR therapy solidifies the effectiveness of EMDR as a modality to treat trauma.

Dr. Mall shared, “I think watching relief is our gift. That we know that we can intervene, and we can do something to help is why we are here, and why we do what we do.”

The overwhelming outcome for the MI-TRI County TRN members is one of success in addressing and treating trauma in their community. However, they are far from done responding to this disaster. They anticipate the return to school in the fall will cause reactivation, as well as the year anniversary and the pending trial.

“We are invested into the community. We’re not going anywhere. We’re seeing this through because we’re just in the beginning stages of this communal trauma,” stated Jennifer.

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The MI-Tri County TRN serves the Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties of Michigan.

If you are interested in joining the TRN, please contact Coordinator Christine Muska at MItricountyTRN@gmail.com.

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