How #TakeCarePHL Came To Be

The story of Take Care PHL: People of the city take on secondary traumatic stress (STS).

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Lights, Camera, Action on STS

The path toward policies that would buffer Philadelphia workers from secondary traumatic stress began with a simple ask by the Philadelphia ACE Task Force (PATF): Come see a movie.

The film was a documentary, Portraits of Professional CAREgivers: Their Passion, Their Pain. In it, workers across sectors—nurses, social workers, psychologists, doctors, firefighters, first responders—describe their efforts to assist people with injury and trauma, and about the painful, sometimes debilitating, toll of that work.

The screening, attended by more than 250 people, launched an effort to put secondary traumatic stress on the radar of Philadelphia’s policy-makers.

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A Widening Circle of Support

After meetings involving City Council members, PATF leaders and the makers of CAREgivers, Council passed a resolution marking February 17 as National Caregivers Day in Philadelphia.

PATF members and Vic Compher, CAREgivers’ co-producer, briefed Council members and their staff on STS and showed them an edited version of the film.

The circle widened; later that year, members of the local chapter of AFSCME, the public employees’ union, also screened the film.

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City Council Listens: Workplace Stress Is Real

A second City Council resolution recognized first responders along with caregivers and referred to trauma, toxic stress and the need for a $15-per-hour livable wage.

City Council called for hearings on STS.

PATF launched a policy workgroup to learn more about STS—to examine existing studies, learn about policies to prevent and mitigate STS and see what other localities were doing.

A smaller planning committee of the workgroup met weekly to prepare for the City Council hearings. The workgroup dubbed the initiative “Take Care PHL.”

On December 7, City Council members heard testimony from researchers and trauma experts, labor leaders and individuals working in health care, child welfare, behavioral health, police and firefighting.

Their message: that STS affects all of those sectors, along with teachers, juvenile justice workers, 911 dispatchers, transit drivers and emergency medical technicians. That such stress is serious and real. And that the city could become a leader in recognizing, preventing and treating its corrosive impact.

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PATF Partners with City on STS

PATF continued to support the city’s efforts to address STS, developing an online toolkit and helping to craft a resolution calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to recognize STS as a workplace hazard.

That resolution passed City Council in December.

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Virtual Cafes and “Real World” Wellness Stories

The COVID-19 pandemic erupted, along with an economic freefall and a nationwide reckoning on racial justice. In response, the PATF launched free virtual cafes, open to city workers and residents, offering information on the biology of stress and strategies for boosting wellness and resilience.

The group also gathered “real world” stories from workplaces across the city — hospitals, non-profits, city departments, unions—that are trying to build wellness and reduce the risk of traumatic stress.

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Take Care PHL: Supporting Each Other, Wherever We Work

The pandemic isn’t over.

The work on STS continues.

Wherever people are working—in office cubicles, masked and socially distanced, in classrooms or hospitals or from a Zoom screen in their kitchens, they are vulnerable to the personal and communal traumas of this past year. When we support those who care for others, we also bolster those workers’ parents, children and friends.

We knit a stronger community. We #TakeCarePHL.