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Cambridge Community Response Network

Peace Walk from Cambridge City Hall to the Cambridge mosque after the Boston Marathon Bombing, May 2, 2013

Events like teen shootings and the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti raised an important question among city leaders: Before disaster strikes or an act of violence ends in tragedy, what should the City have in place to counter both the immediate and long-term impacts of trauma on a community?

To address this issue, the Cambridge Public Health Department and the city's Police Department, Human Services Department, Peace Commission, and the Cambridge Public Schools established the Cambridge Community Response Network (CCRN). Facilitated by the Public Health Department, the CCRN helps residents, students, and workers identify the various tools and resources needed to build resiliency and better recover from a traumatic episode.

The CCRN helps build a more resilient city by:

  • Creating a strong community in which neighbors feel connected to and responsible for each other;
  • Educating residents about how to recognize signs of trauma and appropriately respond;
  • Opening lines of communication between neighborhood residents and city leaders;
  • Providing trauma resources and information to the community.
During a crisis impacting Cambridge, the CCRN engages in activities such as:
  • Assisting with planning and all other supportive arrangements for a community meeting;
  • Providing support for community-initiated activities, such as vigils;
  • Connecting residents to counseling and support groups;
  • Ensuring the community receives accurate and timely information.

Innovative approaches include developing a multicultural behavioral response team and formalizing a "compassionate witness" component at community events, such as vigils. Other integral components of the CCRN have been trainings on recognizing and responding to trauma and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), a groundbreaking public education program that helps individuals identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Over the last three years, in collaboration with area stakeholders, the Cambridge Public Health Department has been offering the MHFA course to police officers, youth center workers, other City staff, and community members.

The CCRN Steering Committee – composed of leaders from each of the founding agencies, as well as the Emergency Communications Department, the Cambridge Fire Department and the Cambridge Police Chaplaincy – meets on a regular basis, as well as in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events impacting the city, such as the Marathon bombings and the shooting death of a 22-year-old Cambridge resident in 2014. CCRN members have served in a liaison role between city leadership and groups organizing vigils and meetings, to ensure that these gatherings achieve the goal of stabilizing the community. CCRN members have also provided consultation to city departments that have organized community meetings following a tragic event.

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