This Therapy Helps Victims of Violent Crime. Who Will Pay for It?

Last spring, Randy White was shot in the stomach when he was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight at an Atlanta gas station. The injury kept him in the hospital for a week, but his mental state was paid little consideration. Discharged with no meaningful plan to deal with the psychological fallout that would inevitably come, he found himself adrift.

A few months later he was still struggling, so he moved back to Coney Island, where he grew up. “I did bad stuff in New York, but I never got shot,” he told me recently. There had been several arrests on drug charges, time spent in jail, a baby at 19, all preceded by a difficult childhood. “I didn’t have a family, like, with love,” he volunteered.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, returning to New York did not bring him the serenity he had hoped to find. Soon after he arrived, he was in a car accident. It was at this point that a friend suggested that he see a therapist.

As it happened, there was a place in the neighborhood called the Trauma Recovery Center, operated out of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, a longstanding social service organization. T.R.C.s, as they are known, came into being more than 20 years ago and have spurred something of a movement — a means of helping victims of violent crime, specifically in low-income communities where a distrust of traditional mental-health treatment can be pervasive. A 2022 survey from the Alliance for Safety and Justice found that 74 percent of victims did not receive counseling to help them process what had happened, a matter both of reluctance and inadequate service.

Since the first T.R.C. opened in San Francisco in 2001, 52 programs across 12 states have followed, and they have largely received bipartisan support on the grounds that they function both palliatively and preventively. The structure allows counselors and case managers to deal with the emergency and whatever practical concerns might arise from it, and then allows them to stay with the victim to help manage the emotional effects: anger and turmoil that can result in dangerous acts of recrimination, or anxiety and depression that can spiral toward unemployment and homelessness.

In addition to the Coney Island facility, two other trauma recovery centers have opened in New York over the past year, one in East Flatbush and another in the Bronx. Their foremost evangelist is the City Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, who was central to establishing them. But the funding — $5 million, which has come entirely from the Council’s discretionary funds over the past two budget cycles — is not enough to sustain them.

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