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Supervisors and Assemblyman seek funding to save San Francisco Trauma Recovery Center

By Elizabeth Pfeffer

June 18, 2006

In the final weeks of City budget negotiations, some San Francisco politicians have found a cause to go public for: The San Francisco Trauma Recovery Center, a nationally accoladed project that will shut its doors Nov. 1 without renewed funding.

Supervisors Chris Daly and Sophie Maxwell joined Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) Friday to announce their hope of nudging $1.5 million of backing for the center into the final cut of the Mayor's 2006-2007 budget.

"The program is an innovative model for cost-effective care for victims of trauma," said its founder, Dr. Alicia Boccellari, director of the Division of Psychosocial Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital.

Located on a sunny corner at the end of Mariposa Street, the center serves about 800 trauma victims yearly. In four and a half years it has improved the quality of life of trauma victims, in ways ranging from mental health support to housing assistance.

Trauma victims are both directly and indirectly affected by crimes, Dr. Boccellari said.

Kathy Young-Hood's son was killed from a gunshot wound. She called the women in her therapy group 'sisters', and credited them as well as the center's staff for her survival. "Without the center I would not be here today. I would have committed suicide by now. I would not have been able to pick up my life again and attempt to go on."

Patricia C. Tak was shot in the face and disfigured. Although she was unable to speak while in the hospital, she received the company of one of the center's therapists while bed ridden. Without the center's support she doesn't know if she would have allowed herself to reintegrate back into society.

The full list of successes is in the thousands, which is why Supervisors Daly and Maxwell, and Assemblyman Leno are vying to save the center.

Aside from being a beneficial resource for trauma victims, the center is also highly cost effective.

Because it only costs $1.5 million to operate the center for one year, and one visit to San Francisco General's psychiatric emergency room costs the City $2,000, Leno said the math is obvious with 800 victims visiting the center repeatedly throughout the year.

Last year Leno introduced legislation to fund the center from the state's Victim Compensation Fund, which is at an $80 million surplus and growing.

Despite majority approval from the assembly and senate, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill, thus slashing funding for the center.

But Leno isn't ready to let this cause fall to the wayside.

"Things don't always get done the first time, but we don't give up."

He is proposing a new bill this year that will make Victim Restitution Funds more readily available and to create a handful of new trauma recovery centers statewide.

In the meantime, the only hope for San Francisco's center is City and County funding.

Daly encouraged supporters to lobby their Supervisors and make public comment at the June 22 Budget and Finance Committee meeting.




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