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Date Updated: Monday, June 27, 2022

WMCHealth Launches Community Taskforce to Serve Needs of Abuse and Trauma Victims in Westchester County

The VICTR Taskforce, with members from healthcare, public safety, law enforcement, county agencies, community service providers, and other groups, seeks to improve and streamline the response to and recovery of victims.

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Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), the leading provider of integrated healthcare in the Hudson Valley, will launch the Victim Informed Care & Trauma Recovery (VICTR) Taskforce this week, to serve the needs of abuse victims and those impacted by trauma in Westchester County. The goal of this first-of-its-kind team is to collaborate with community partners to ensure a compassionate and streamlined approach to response and recovery for all victims.

The VICTR Taskforce will bring together WMCHealth representatives and key community stakeholders from organizations including: Westchester County District Attorney’s Office; members of the 42 local Westchester County police departments; Westchester County agencies, including the Office for Women and the Department of Probation; community-based service providers, including those serving the LGBTQ, Latinx and other underserved populations; local colleges and universities, including Title IX coordinators and health center staff; and faith-based providers.

Also participating will be Westchester Medical Center’s Forensic Acute Care Team (FACT), comprised of nurses and physicians who provide care and support to adult and pediatric sexual assault and abuse victims, as well as representatives of the medical center’s newly launched Sexual Assault Abuse and Victims Empowerment (SAAVE) program.

“As the only adult and pediatric trauma center in the Hudson Valley, we view the establishment of the VICTR Taskforce as a natural and imperative extension of Westchester Medical Center’s leading role in treating the medical components of trauma for the region,” said Michael D. Israel, President and CEO of the WMCHealth Network, which represents 10 hospitals in eight counties across the region, with 300,000 lives served annually. “Addressing the personal crisis factors associated with violence and trauma is, for us, a mandate in caring for the whole person, and we embrace the opportunity to collaborate and expand our role in the region to support victims in these critical areas.”

The VICTR Taskforce will focus on building coalitions among stakeholders in Westchester County to provide trauma-informed, direct services to all victims; streamline response and recovery tactics to best serve victims and those impacted by trauma; increase perpetrator accountability; and offer coordinated and comprehensive awareness and prevention education countywide.

“WMCHealth is uniquely positioned in Westchester County to facilitate and implement the VICTR Taskforce,” said Kara Bennorth, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Office of the WMCHealth Network.

“At WMCHealth, we witness first-hand the opportunities to serve victims in our community, and the creation of the VICTR Taskforce will formalize our efforts to provide a trauma-informed first response to victims in every situation, to offer caring support, and to ensure effective response protocols.”

“The establishment of the VICTR Taskforce will serve as a critical tool in ensuring that the needs of victims and those impacted by trauma are met here in Westchester County,” District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. said. “By bringing together the stakeholders who play a role in responding to, caring for and supporting victims of abuse, we are better able to improve the services they will need. While the Westchester District Attorney’s Office remains committed to stopping these crimes and vigorously prosecuting offenders, this taskforce will allow us to take a closer look at protocols and streamline services provided by all involved agencies in these types of cases.”

“The VICTR Taskforce will serve as a valuable tool for all involved in caring for victims in Westchester County. In these situations, both public safety and health care officials must exercise heightened awareness and understand the unique challenges when assisting vulnerable populations,” said Pound Ridge Police Chief David M. Ryan.

Responsibilities of the VICTR Taskforce will also include ensuring outreach and education services are coordinated, ensuring meaningful programming for outreach to victims to enhance response and recovery, prevention and education to young people including at the grade school and college level, and thoughtful education to first responders to prevent re-victimization. Included among the VICTR Taskforce members are:

• Hon. Anthony J. Scarpino, Jr., Westchester County District Attorney
• David M. Ryan, Chief of Police, Town of Pound Ridge
• Robi Schlaff, Director, Westchester County Office for Women
• Rocco Pozzi, Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Probation
• Anne Janiak, Executive Director of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association
• John Baker, Interim Executive Director of The LOFT: LGBT Community Services Center

And from WMCHealth Network:

• Kara Bennorth, Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer
• Stephen Ferrando, MD, Director of Psychiatry
• Mecca Santana, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement
• Sue Gerry, Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances & Partnerships
• Karen Carroll, RN, Forensic Nurse, FACT/WIHD
• Jennifer Cantor, MD, Director, Child Abuse Pediatrics & Forensic Acute Care Team/WIHD
• Licia Sandberg, Senior Director, Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Advocacy Program
• Matt Landers, Senior Director, Nursing for Emergency Services
• Gretchen Halstead, Service Excellence Officer

The VICTR Taskforce officially kicked off today with the day-long WMCHealth Public Safety and Health Summit, called “Partnering for Safe and Healthy Communities,” held at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor. The summit presented current issues impacting public safety and healthcare workers, and best practices for successful collaborations between the two were shared. Russell W. Strand, Senior U.S. Army Special Agent (Ret.), served as the keynote speaker, discussing Trauma Informed Response and Care and Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviews, which focus on providing services and interactions that are sensitive to the trauma that many people experience after a violent crime or high stress experiences.