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OSF program for survivors of violent crime faces increased need every year

A nighttime picture of OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria.
OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center
The Strive program looks to start the trauma recovery process early, possibly even in the emergency room.

A program at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria provides free trauma recovery services to victims of violent crimes and is seeing more clients every year.

Samantha Schubach, clinical supervisor and program coordinator of the Strive program, said 567 different clients were helped in 2023. Service for clients varies. What they all have in common is a standard course of 16 therapy appointments, with options to expand into further appointments, or outside services depending on how their recovery is going.

“We have clients that, unfortunately, are re-traumatized or re-victimized while they're in our services,” said Schubach. “Clients can lose another family member, or they can have something else happen while they're seeing us. That's not unheard of, that happens quite frequently.”

Schubach said a consultation on the 12th visit usually helps determine whether a client needs to remain with the program, or would be better served elsewhere in the community. However, she said there are limited resources in Peoria, when compared to a city like Chicago with similar programs.

To qualify for the Strive program, a client must have been a victim of a violent crime within the last 10 years. Schubach said the 10-year limit gives the individual time to process on their own before having to reach out for more services. They also have to be older than 14, with Schubach noting children need more specialized trauma recovery work.

Clients come to the program from a variety of sources, either by contacting Strive themselves, through one of Strive’s offices on various Peoria Public Schools properties, or directly from the moment they arrive in the emergency room.

“It is based on a mental health model,” said Schubach. “And to kind of catch the clients when they are first experiencing those traumas, but also to offer services in a manner that is best for them.”

The most frequent crimes the program treats, she said, are family and domestic violence, adult physical assault, child abuse and sexual abuse, adult abuse and sexual abuse and surviving family members of homicide victims.

Adult physical assault is a broad, legal term that includes victims of gun violence.

The services rendered can include needs outside of mental health, like housing and food security. Schubach said the Trauma Recovery Center model comes from a “holistic” approach originally piloted in California in the 90’s.

“These well-rounded services helped decrease the amount of time they were spending in ERs, helped decrease the amount of time maybe they were spending on government programs,” said Schubach. “[The programs] increase their longevity in life, help them get back into the community and be somebody that felt like they could participate in, maybe, back in the routine of the life that they had before.”

After the success of the program in California, it slowly grew to a funded program on a state and federal level, said Schubach, adding the OSF program is funded through the federal Victims of Crimes Act and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

OSF originally applied for the grant in 2017 and started the program in 2018 serving just the 61605 zip code. Schubach said, over time, the service range expanded and now includes the entire city of Peoria.

While funding makes the program possible, it doesn’t meet the level of need. Strive currently employs a team of 10 people — Schubach said fully staffed would be around 14.

“The state every year is cutting funding,” she said. “So, we're trying to expand a program and grow a program and serve more clients because we have more and more clients every year because we're trying to expand our services. And the state keeps going ‘We don't have enough money for you.’”

Of the 10 employees, Schubach said just one is a full-time, 40-hour therapist. However, despite the challenges of operating the Strive program at OSF, there are some unique advantages in Peoria.

Strive has offices in Manual High School, Peoria High School and the Knoxville Center for Student Success. She said it’s unusual for Trauma Recovery Centers to have offices in public schools.

“We actually do presentations to other [Trauma Recovery Centers] to talk about how we've partnered with them to try to expand our services,” said Schubach. “Because those younger ages are, they need to be in school. And we don't want to pull them out of school.”

You can find more information about Strive and all the different ways and places the program serves victims of violent crime here on the OSF website.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.