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The New Jersey Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services recognizes that national statistics indicate that 43%-81% of adults in psychiatric hospitals and up to 2/3 of individuals in substance abuse treatment have experienced trauma.

The Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services (DMHAS) maintains that recovery from trauma is possible, therefore trauma sensitivity shall be a governing principle as we address policy making, service system design and implementation, workforce development, and professional practice.

How does DMHAS define trauma?

Trauma refers to extreme stress that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope.  Individual trauma can result from an event, a series of events, or circumstances that an individual experiences as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening.  It is not the objective facts of an event that determines whether that event is traumatic; it is the way in which each individual internalizes the emotional experience of the event.  Traumatic events or circumstances often have lasting adverse effects on an individual’s basic sense of self, trust in others, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

DMHAS recognizes that staff throughout the system of care is at risk for vicarious traumatization.  A culture shift toward a trauma-informed system of care also rests on staff members’ experiences of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.  Staff shall be provided with support, protocols, education and opportunities for training and supervision to maintain wellness and resiliency.  (SAMHSA,  2012)

What is a Trauma Informed System of Care?

In a Trauma-informed system, and in recognition that the majority of individuals who seek mental health and substance abuse services have experienced trauma, screening, assessment and trauma sensitive services must be applied universally to every individual.   In a trauma-informed system, services are designed to address the needs of trauma survivors.  Services must:

Include individuals and their supporters in the planning, design, implementation and monitoring of best and promising trauma practices.

Train staff to understand that regardless of the reasons an individual seeks service, staff ask respectfully about trauma history, and are prepared to listen.

Include the impact of all types of trauma:  disaster, vicarious traumatization, acute, continuous, etc.

Utilize language that is person-centered, which is reinforced through continued training and supervision.

Ensure that leadership develops and disseminates information and technical assistance on best practices.

Incorporate knowledge about trauma in all aspects of service delivery.


Ensure that environments are welcoming, hospitable and engaging.


Ensure that service delivery minimizes re-victimization and facilitates wellness, recovery and resiliency.

DMHAS is committed to the development of a trauma informed system of care within our existing wellness and recovery oriented framework for both the state psychiatric hospitals and the community based system.  Supervision and training must be implemented to prevent employees from experiencing compassion fatigue and/or vicarious traumatization.

Values and Guiding Principles for a Trauma Informed System of Care
Letter introducing Ann Jennings, Ph.D. (Consultant to SAMHSA & NASMHPD)

Values and Guiding Principles (Slideshow)

Values and Guiding Principles (Factsheet) 
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