While not every community will have to respond to this exact tragedy, the intensive month in Uvalde reiterated what it means to be trauma-informed, staff told The 74; and full of reminders for those who want to help in the wake of tragedy.

Communities In Schools’ access to a statewide network of seasoned mental health professionals perfectly fit the needs of the grieving community, but it was their relationship-based approach that made it work, said Lisa Descant, CEO of Communities In Schools of Houston, who joined Weaver’s team in Uvalde.

“We’re outsiders coming into this close-knit community,” Descant said.

Many families have been in Uvalde, a small west-Texas agricultural town, for generations. School  superintendent Hal Harrell is the son of a former superintendent. Familiar last names show up over the decades on City Council, school boards, and yearbook ads. Losses and wounds are felt deeply, in ways that aren’t immediately apparent.

Weaver anticipated the importance of being invited and listening closely to the community,   rather than simply swooping in. While she understood the impulse to help, observing the ground scene in Uvalde in the month after the shooting showed her how confusing and unsettling that help can be when it’s uninvited and unaccountable.

Communities In Schools operates on 1,300 sites providing professional mental health services, with professionals trained to address acute and long-term trauma and the effects of poverty as they show up in school.

Weaver rallied 42 Communities In Schools’ (CIS) colleagues from around the state—counselors and social workers—to offer clinical services from a base inside the Uvalde schools offering  summer school mere weeks after the shooting.

San Antonio clinical caseworker Sarah Martinez, was one of the first to arrive, and quickly found herself talking to children and adults who were in a state of shock—some confused, some overwhelmed.

“It’s not therapy, it’s being a first responder,” she said. Staff had to have an EMT or firefighter’s reflexes to respond to whatever came up, whatever happened next.

“The people of Uvalde are the experts in this horrible, awful tragedy,” Descant said.

They would need that first-responder mentality still when summer school started on June 7. News crews still lined the streets, many now delving into the police handling of the shooting. Politicians held press conferences. Police squads from all over Texas patrolled the city. News still broke almost every day, reopening wounds.

For many, said Descant, the process of “reliving” the shooting went on for weeks.

Read the full article about trauma counselors by Bekah McNeel at The 74.