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Many local agencies and non-profits joined forces with Partners Aligned Toward Health (PATH) and the Mitchell Yancey Substance Abuse Task Force (MYSATF) to bring internationally-acclaimed, trauma-informed care expert, Tonier Cain-Muldrow to our community as part of the “MY Community Cares Summit and Recovery Celebration” in September, 2019. As a trauma survivor herself, Ms. Cain-Muldrow’s work focuses on heightening awareness of the characteristics and effects of trauma and improving the performance of service providers, businesses, government agencies and others who interact with trauma victims and survivors. “Ms. Cain-Muldrow taught us that trauma causes blind-spots that distort perceptions, lead to costly mistakes, and limit the possibilities of victims and survivors,” says Nickey Stamey, who serves as Program Director for Mitchell Yancey Healthy Families, and who was instrumental in bringing Ms. Cain-Muldrow to our community.

The Summit began with a screening of Ms. Cain-Muldrow’s documentary, “Healing Neen” and an opportunity for audience members to interact with Mr. Cain-Muldrow in a question-and-answer session. The second day of the Summit was a full-day, professional development workshop at the Burnsville Town Center. Some county agencies, including Yancey Department of Social Services, Mitchell Department of Social Services, and Toe River Health District, made a commendable example of prioritizing the topic of trauma enough to close services for the day of the professional development workshop, enabling all of their staff to learn, and to better serve our community. According to Schell McCall, Executive Director of PATH, “I do not know of any other event or training that has gathered that amazing group of people together for a single event or training. It was remarkable and humbling to witness.”

The Summit concluded with a Recovery Celebration on Burnsville’s Town Square. District Attorney Seth Banks and Chief District Judge Ted McEntire opened up the celebration, welcoming everyone, and talking about their beliefs that recovery is possible and is happening. Several brave, local individuals told their stories of their personal experiences with their own substance use, or living in a family with substance use. It was truly a celebration – with balloons, snow cones, BBQ, free tee shirts, community acupuncture, resources, and more.

Over 635 individuals from the Departments of Social Services, Health Departments, schools, law enforcement, and more in Yancey and Mitchell counties attended the 3-day Summit. According to Schell, “I don’t know what specific changes will happen in our community as a result of the Summit, but I am confident that the ripples of positivity, hope, and attitude shifts will have a positive and lasting impact. We are grateful for the many partner agencies and sponsors who pulled together to make this Summit possible.”

Cassie York is a Peer Support Specialist at Mountain Community Health Partnership, who was instrumental in making the Summit happen. According to her, “The My Community Cares Summit proved to be an inspiring event. I was encouraged by the participation and support of local agencies, as well as the collaboration between both counties. I feel that as a community, we are moving towards a more trauma-informed, recovery-supportive community. It was an honor to work on this project with so many dedicated and compassionate individuals who are diligently working towards healthier outcomes for our residents.” Cassie Burleson is another Peer Support Specialist who also works at Mountain Community Health Partnership, and was also critical to the success of the Summit. According to her, “Our community set a wonderful example of a small community coming together and doing something large. Recovery is welcome here! I was proud to sit in that room, with all of those people, and be a part of this community.”