Resilient PA Grassroots Network Launches to Help Pennsylvania Communities Grow and Flourish Beyond Trauma

United Way of Pennsylvania announces today that it is launching a statewide network to connect local organizations who want to help support individuals through a trauma-informed approach which recognizes various forms of trauma and adverse events. This coalition, called “Resilient PA – Growing and Flourishing Together”, strives to foster resilient Pennsylvania youth, families, and communities by promoting trauma-informed care and systems across sectors, raising awareness of the impact of trauma, and advocating for resiliency-building policies and funding.

“Trauma-informed practice focuses on the totality of an individual’s life experience, recognizing that many Americans have experienced trauma, sometimes beginning in childhood. Trauma impacts the brain’s response to stress, which also impacts behavior. Trauma-informed care digs deeper to determine what is in an individual’s set of experiences in order to understand their behavior, and then a treatment plan can be developed to support individual resiliency,” said Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania.

Trauma generates both a neurological and emotional response, and trauma may also have physical symptoms. Trauma can result from a single stressful event, like an accident or a sexual assault. Prolonged exposure to highly stressful events also causes trauma – like witnessing community violence or drug abuse in the home, social isolation during the pandemic, or the uncertainty of poverty. Secondary trauma can also be experienced by people who have close contact with someone who has experienced a traumatic event. An individual may experience trauma as an adult or a child.

“Many Pennsylvanians have experienced trauma or prolonged, severe stress as a result of the pandemic. This may stem from financial hardship, social isolation, or being a member of a group that has poorer health outcomes if COVID-19 is contracted. Healing requires sufficient access to resources to support our understanding of our own experience. Recovering from the trauma of COVID-19 is a journey we are all on together,” Rotz said.

In May of 2020, the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform announced a volunteer leadership team who would develop a plan to make PA a trauma-informed state, called HEAL PA. Resilient PA is a separate but complementary initiative which will help scale trauma-informed care across the state while leveraging training and educational resources developed by HEAL PA and connecting communities to share and replicate promising practice.

“Becoming a trauma-informed state will require people from different communities, disciplines, and sectors to come together around the science of trauma and how it affects all of us. HEAL PA was created as a public/private coalition that could connect to many existing and new initiatives and movements across Pennsylvania with Resilient PA as the case in point. By bringing our efforts together as strategic partners we increase each other’s reach and impact exponentially for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians,” said Dan Jurman, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Advocacy and Reform.

“As Pennsylvanians continue to work together in order to overcome the pandemic, now is a time for acknowledging the many traumas of varying sorts that have caused unspeakable pain to many in our state.  We, at the same time, acknowledge the moral obligation we all have to build resilience and support healing of every kind for people who have suffered too long from these experiences.  Resilient PA is a call to action for us all, recognizing that each and everyone of us has an important role to play in the future of a Pennsylvania that is more resilient, more healing and more just,” said Reverend Paul Abernathy, CEO of Neighborhood Resilience Project.  

Local United Ways have spearheaded regional efforts to implement trauma-informed care in their communities. United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey lead local coalitions and were key partners in starting Resilient PA. United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey is funding Resilient PA through a grant to bring together a coalition of public and private partners to further trauma-informed care. Collaborating around best practices is a key part of the coalition.

“I am pleased to join the United Way of Pennsylvania in announcing this important initiative to bring awareness to the impact trauma has on an individual’s life,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne said. “Resilient PA focuses on identifying avenues of support for those who have experienced a traumatic event or are currently facing continued trauma in their daily lives. Placing a goal of increasing an individual’s resiliency in dealing with trauma is critical to helping improve individuals’, families’ and communities’ health and outcomes in life. I am thrilled that the Lehigh Valley region, led by Resilient Lehigh Valley and the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, has been a leader in recognizing the need for trauma-informed care and education and to see the successes they have achieved will now be shared and replicated statewide.”

“In the office of the Attorney General we see trauma every day through our work,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Through victims who have been in difficult and traumatic experiences, through perpetrators caught in the cycle of trauma and crime, and through the law enforcement who put their lives at risk every day and are witnesses to others struggling. The impact of trauma can extend to everyone within our immediate circles: children, parents, co-workers, and neighbors. Trauma impacts so many but so often it’s not discussed. And that’s why your work is so important and why I think this collaboration will help our communities and save lives. Resilient PA will support and connect communities across the Commonwealth to establish and expand Trauma-Informed approaches, highlight best practices, and bring champions together to advocate for trauma-informed care. It will help service providers learn how to better handle their own trauma and the trauma of the people that they serve. And I hope that it reduces victimization, increases emotional and physical wellbeing, and decreases crime and recidivism. It’s up to all of us to be educated about trauma and the enormous health consequences resulting from trauma.”

Anyone who would like to get involved with Resilient PA is invited to sign up at  

About United Way of Pennsylvania (UWP)

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. United Way of Pennsylvania is a membership organization whose purpose is to assist and champion the efforts of local United Ways in advancing the common good. Other charitable organizations known as United Funds or Community Chests also can be members of UWP.

UWP engages and connects local United Ways with resources that will help them address their community needs. UWP serves as the voice for 44 member United Ways across the Commonwealth on state public policy issues that relate to community impact work in education, income and health.

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