Trauma summit in Licking Co. a poignant reminder of Kirkersville shootings

GRANVILLE, OH (WCMH) — It has been nearly two weeks since the mass shooting in Kirkersville rocked the community.

On Wednesday the Licking County Trauma Informed Approaches Summit, planned nearly a year ago, was a poignant reminder of the lingering effects of witnessing or hearing about a traumatic event like Kirkersville.

The all-day-summit was held at Denison University in Granville, just 11 miles away from the scene where four people including the Kirkersville police chief were shot dead.

As the tributes to those killed at the Pine Kirk Care Center fade, a nationally known trauma expert told the summit audience of 250 people you need to understand prolonged trauma and how to deal with it.

Colonel Chad Dennis with the Licking County Sheriff’s Office was one of the first commanders to arrive at the scene in Kirkersville.

“This summit is good timing right now for our agency, and all the agencies I think we had 44 – 45 of our guys from the sheriff’s office at the scene that day,” he said.

Licking County area law enforcement, mental health, and court workers, along with others, spent the day working on how to deal with trauma in healthy manners.

“In law enforcement, historically, it is not ingrained in us and our nature to say we need help,” said Colonel Dennis.

Kim Kehl, Trauma Care Project Coordinator with the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services was one of several instructors at the summit.

“I think the challenge to the community, whether it is to Kirkersville or Licking County, is that we are not going to really understand this impact potentially for a long time,” Kehl said. “By having this group come together, and by using a common terminology and base of understanding, I think we can help the community find the right way to heal,” he said.

A national expert on mental health, Raul Almazar, said too many times if police officers are having flashbacks or nightmares they cannot tell their supervisor because of fear of repercussions. Almazar was referring to work he did with the Baltimore, MD police department.

“You know what they did, they hired 20 new chaplains,” he said.

Colonel Dennis said, “unfortunately we have seen a rise in officer-involved domestic violence situations and stress on different levels and including officers committing suicide.”

He said law enforcement needs to do a better job protecting their own, along with those on the street.

“We got to start preaching to guys it takes courage to stand up and help your fellow officers when you sense they are hurting,” Dennis said.

On a wider front, Almazar told the audience there is a direct relationship between domestic violence and bullying.

“If I cannot control what is happening at home, I will on the playground or on social media and that affects our whole community.”

The idea for this summit came about a year ago, after David Edelblute with the Licking County Probate-Juvenile Court organized committees made up from local law enforcement, the legal community and those working in Intervention and Treatment.

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