Last spring, the national Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) was greenlit for its 15th and newest affiliate providing emotional and practical support to victims of sudden tragedies.
That 15th is here in Lane County.
Dan Isaacson, who has been fighting for TIP’s integration into Lane County since 2019, says he was almost brought to tears when it was given the go-ahead by the county’s service agencies, because of the difference TIP will make in a moment of tragedy.
“I know that there’s a door being knocked on, in that moment, and what’s about to happen for some mother or father or brother or sister,” he says. “And to know that those doors still are going to be knocked on, but they’ll be knocked on in a way that provides care rather than trauma, is probably one of the best things that I’ve been part of.”
TIP is a national volunteer-based nonprofit, founded in 1985, that trains volunteers who are then called by emergency personnel, such as police or paramedics, to assist those affected by a devastating incident such as a death. These volunteers are trained in emotional first aid, a series of practices designed to guide victims through the immediate aftermath of a tragedy and connect them to resources for next steps.
Now that TIP has been funded in Lane County, volunteers will be available locally 24/7, and Isaacson expects that they will begin responding to calls from the emergency system in March 2023.
TIP for Lane County, the name of the new affiliate, has an approximately $40,000 budget that comes from different service agencies in the county — Eugene Fire Department, Eugene Police Department, Springfield Police Department, and other service agencies both urban and rural.
“TIP is a time-tested, nationwide program that has worked in a lot of different communities. It’s why we’re unhesitant to devote EPD dollars toward what’s really going to be a county-wide resource,” says Doug Mozan, patrol captain for EPD. “I’m very hopeful that a lot of people become TIP volunteers and that we have a more resilient community as a result.”
Bridget Byfield was a TIP volunteer 28 years ago. In 1998, she was sent from Multnomah County to Lane County following the Thurston High School shooting. And she moved to Lane County in 2006 while working in child welfare.
“I kept thinking, ‘TIP is needed so badly here,’” she says.
Byfield has long advocated for TIP’s introduction to Lane County, and says she never gave up hope. Retired from child welfare since 2020, she’s been working on proposals and meeting with police, fire and mental health agencies to get them on board with the program.
Now, she’s stepping into a new role, as program director of TIP for Lane County.
“Lane County is full of caring people. And sometimes we just don’t know how or when to be there for each other,” Byfield says. “TIP provides that information, and the opportunity to care for each other.”
As program director, Byfield will be responsible for overseeing team leaders — those who delegate volunteers — providing updates to the county, briefing emergency personnel, running monthly meetings for volunteers and developing the resource guide, which guides TIP clients to appropriate mental health or practical resources after an incident.
“One of my pet peeves when I was in child welfare was to get resources that were no longer functioning,” Byfield says. “You have people that have just been through something traumatic; it needs to be consistently updated, and we need to know the resources we give are viable and the best we have in the county.”
Byfield is also currently setting up the training academy for TIP for Lane County volunteers. Trainers from TIP National will lead the academy, and it will begin in January 2023.
Isaacson says that TIP is a tried-and-true pathway to preventing unnecessary trauma for victims of tragedies, and that Lane County is overdue for such a resource.
“There are solutions here that other communities have found,” he says. “And the dollar amount is so minuscule to the benefit the community gets.”
For Byfield, TIP has been the most “heartwarming” volunteer experience she’s ever had. During her time as a volunteer, she would give her clients space to talk about their loved ones, to revel in something beautiful even in their darkest moments. Their words have stuck with her for a lifetime.
“They would talk from the day they met, and the stories I would get were the warmest, deepest love in the world,” Byfield says. “You don’t get to witness that kind of love in the grocery store.” ν
To be considered as a TIP for Lane County volunteer, visit TIPLaneCounty.org.
This story was developed as part of the Catalyst Journalism Project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Catalyst brings together investigative reporting and solutions journalism to spark action and response to Oregon’s most perplexing issues. To learn more visit Journalism.UOregon.edu/Catalyst or follow the project on Twitter @UO_catalyst. Eugene Weekly and the Catalyst Journalism Project originally covered TIP in a solutions journalism story in March 2022 available at EugeneWeekly.com/2022/03/03/preventing-second-injury.