"If you give a man fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."This was the message from State Senator Laura Boyd, PhD and others in Oklahoma City immediately after the first modern act of domestic terrorism: the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. When mental health professionals like Dr. Boyd were asked what was needed, everyone replied “lessons for trauma recovery.” They wanted training and competence to assess and treat fellow Oklahomans. Out of this request for help emerged the Green Cross Foundation and the Green Cross Projects.
The GCP was initially composed of 58 mental health professionals who completed a program of training over a 9-month period of time (August 1995 to May 1996) leading to a Registered Traumatologist certification, the primary requirement for membership in the GCP. These members were not only capable of helping the bombing survivors in their hometown, they were also prepared to apply their knowledge and experience in other communities affected by community-wide, horrendous, traumatic events. The Green Cross Projects provided opportunities for graduates of the Program to apply their skills in communities affected by disasters. Membership in this humanitarian service organization was restricted to those who achieved Registered (later Certified) Traumatologist certification or its equivalency. In 1997 the Green Cross training program found a home with Florida State University’s Center for Professional Development.
In August 1997 Charles R. Figley, PhD applied for and secured initial approval for a non-profit educational and humanitarian foundation. The new Green Cross Foundation was to serve as a “guardian angel” for the Green Cross Projects and its Registered Traumatologist Certification Program.
One of the first actions of the Foundation was to establish the Academy of Traumatology. In September 1997, under the aegis of the Foundation, the Academy of Traumatology was established by Dr. Figley and other leaders in the field of traumatology (especially Frank Ochberg, Bessel van der Kolk, and Gorge Everly). The Academy had four major responsibilities: (1) elect new members; (2) award current members for special achievement, (3) assemble the world’s experts in trauma as elected members, and; (4) monitor the Standards of Practice for Traumatologists.
In December, 1997 the GCP’s Registered Traumatologist certification program became the Florida State University Traumatology Institute’s Traumatology Certification Program. Courses were offered through the Traumatology (teaching) Institute starting in the spring of 1998. In recognition of the different needs of non-mental health professionals such as nurses, first responders, journalists, teachers, and others, the Institute established the Field Traumatologist certification in addition to the Certified Traumatologist certification. Soon to follow were Compassion Fatigue Educator and Compassion Fatigue Therapist certifications.
With FSU taking over the certification program and providing staff, and the Green Cross Foundation providing financial and institutional consultation, the Green Cross Project (GCP) formed its own organization and sought non-profit status through its new board of directors
In addition to offering courses and certifications, the Traumatology Institute also offered site licenses to qualified traumatology training programs who wished to offer the curriculum leading to certification. Approved training institutes were to pay a site license fee to be authorized to offer the same five-course curriculum. Based on the first full year of the Traumatology Certification Program, the University Continuing Education Association named it the “Best (non-credit) Program of the Year” at its annual meeting in San Diego in 2000. The Program grew in the number of sanctioned training institutes with site licenses and began to offer off-site training and educational programs to the public (e.g., the Military Traumatology Program to the US Army in August, 2000 and the compassion fatigue training to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in October, 2000).
In August 2001, with the support of the Foundation, the Certification Program moved to the University of South Florida’s Continuing Education Center in Tampa, Florida.
Under the direction of Dr. Michael Rank and Eric Gentry, the program flourished.
Just one month after the move, on September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York. The GCP deployed teams of Traumatologists in response to a request from Service Employee International Union Local 32B-J.
In October, 2003 the Green Cross Foundation’s Board of Directors approved the acquisition of the Certification program from the University of South Florida’s Continuing Education program through its Academy of Traumatology. The Academy then established a deliberative, policy-making body to be responsible for the Traumatology Certification Program and the sanctioning of licensed sites that offer courses toward the Program’s certifications. This body, modeled after other commissions with similar responsibilities, was named the Commission on Certification and Accreditation (COCA). Its purposes are to: (1) establish traumatology certifications, (2) establish the accreditation of traumatology education for both graduate and postgraduate education, and (3) review the Academy’s certification and accreditation program and the standards and policies that govern them. In order to insure that the Commission is doing its job, the Academy of Traumatology established the commission’s Advisory Board. Membership on the Board is limited to the directors of the accredited traumatology teaching institutes.
In 2004, the Green Cross Foundation and the Green Cross Projects merged into a single organization and the GCP became the deployment arm of the GCF under the name Green Cross Assistance Program.
In terms of deployment, 2005 became the busiest year that the Green Cross Foundation had yet seen. GCF’s Green Cross Assistance Program sent members to respond to several assistance requests stemming from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as to Sri Lanka to provide traumatology services in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami.
In September of 2005, the Academy of Traumatology first published its Standards of Self Care. Through these Standards, the Academy recognized that only those who first care for themselves could provide the highest quality traumatology services to others.
In late 2005 a dialogue was opened between the Green Cross Foundation and the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists to explore the possibility of merging the two organizations. While it seemed that merging the two would benefit both, by July of 2006 it became clear that the merger would not take place. ATSS and GCF would follow their chosen paths separately.
In August of 2006, the Green Cross Foundation’s board of directors elected to acknowledge the importance of the Academy of Traumatology’s role in the Green Cross Foundation by renaming the organization the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology. With this new name came a restatement of the goal of GCAT: to Accredit, Certify and Deploy. The Green Cross Academy of Traumatology, through its Commission on Certification and Accreditation, accredits traumatology training sites. The training received at these sites results in GCAT certifications. The holders of GCAT certifications are then eligible to deploy with the Green Cross Assistance Program.
Accredited sites are now present on four of the seven continents. The Green Cross Academy of Traumatology, through sponsored trainings and its accredited sites, has provided traumatology training to thousands of individuals. The Green Cross Assistance Program has responded to requests for assistance from around the world. We will continue to pursue our goal: to Accredit training sites throughout the world, to Certify traumatologists throughout the world, and to Deploy traumatologists when and where requested throughout the world.