Staff Interview by EHN Guest Writer
Written by Lorelie Rozzano, an internationally recognized author and advocate.
On August 4th, 2009, Debra Kine was hired at Edgewood Health Centre in Nanaimo, BC. With a Master’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Psychology, Debra’s impressive resume includes working as a chaplain in pediatric ICU at McMaster Children’s Hospital and at St. Michael’s emergency ward in Toronto working with patients, families, EMTs, and police. Debra has also worked in HIV, Oncology, and Palliative Care.
Hired initially as a chaplain, Debra found she missed the intimacy of working closely with patients and their families in oncology and palliative care. Feeling that her skills and passions were better suited to a different role, Debra moved over to the clinical team and began working with residential patients. Debra enjoyed her role as counselor and continued to advance in her career; she was soon promoted to clinical supervisor. Due to her extensive training in trauma, Debra was asked to participate in a year-long training program on traumatic stress studies through Boston University run by Dr. Bessel VanderKolk, who is known worldwide for his expertise on trauma.
Already a registered clinical counselor, Debra completed her training and received certification as a trauma counselor. Debra acknowledges first responders, including military personnel, veterans, EMT’s, EMS, firefighters and coast guard employees, share an increased risk of developing medical and mental health issues such as depression, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the intensive and traumatic nature of their work, they are also at an increased risk of developing substance use disorder.
Along with Debra Kine, Edgewood officially launched its Concurrent Trauma and Addiction Program (CTAP) in June of 2018. Candidates for this program include first-responders who experience mental/physical health issues and are dependent on alcohol or drugs. In March of 2019, Edgewood launched its Trauma and Psychological Injury Program (TPIP), a program for first-responders who experience mental/physical health issues but don’t struggle with a substance use disorder.
Noting that not all injuries are visible, Debra says first responders coming into CTAP or TPIP suffer from a psychological injury that’s triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. This injury creates high levels of stress, which flood the body with stress chemicals and create ensuing physical and emotional issues. With such a psychological injury, the ability to control one’s behaviour diminishes, and people experience feelings of anger, rage, and depression, resulting in fractured relationships and isolation.
New arrivals to Edgewood’s trauma programs are spaced three weeks apart to allow each cohort to settle in and establish positive peer relationships. With two psychiatrists on staff and a doctor who specializes in addiction, Edgewood is prepared to address the unique needs of every individual.
Debra explains Edgewood’s programs offer a multi-disciplinary approach to the whole person: the emotional body, the physical body, the psychological body, and the spiritual body. Patients learn somatic body movement, meditation, mindfulness, mindful walking, and grounding techniques.
Debra admits that this work is challenging because some patients attending Edgewood’s trauma programs have not been treated fairly both by society and by the people they count on the most for support. Patients come to these programs who may have a long history of trying to get help. They were told there’s nothing wrong with them, and there’s no help available. Some patients were referred to a psychiatrist who only treated their symptoms with medication, but their underlying problems persisted, resulting in feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation.
Debra shows her patients how their negative core beliefs and patterns of behavior control their lives. Through a number of therapeutic techniques, developing healthy communication skills, and connecting to a solid recovery community, Debra’s patients learn how to make peace with their pasts, rewrite their stories, and look forward to a bright new future.
The majority of the men and women who complete Edgewood’s trauma programs are back in their homes and jobs, thriving. The alumni say that attending CTAP or TPIP saved their life. For Debra, there is no better reward than that.
Watching men and women, who had previously given up on life, leave Edgewood and go on to lead full, meaningful lives is powerful. When patients return home to their communities, they share their experiences with their coworkers, friends, and family, inspiring others who may struggle to reach out for help.
Debra notes some people in society are quick to judge, categorize and label others. But in CTAP and TPIP, we strip away the labels. By listening to people’s stories and finding out what is really going on for them, we can help. Experiencing trauma isn’t something you can “suck up.”
Unfortunately, not everyone will get the opportunity to attend programs at Edgewood, or any other EHN Canada facilities, and some will end their life due to PTSD and the effects of trauma. Debra hopes to see more resources available for first-responders, and to get the message out that you’re not weak for needing help, and there’s no shame in getting well.
Debra Kine is passionate about helping the men and women we call heroes. She is grateful for her team, the dedicated people at Edgewood. Debra is a hard worker and high achiever. Debra Kine’s polished demeanor speaks to a keen intellect, while the many thank you cards in her office speak to a generous spirit, a warm heart, and the difference she is making in the lives of her patients.
We Can Help You
If you would like to learn more about the CTAP and TPIP treatment programs offered by EHN Canada, or if you have any questions about trauma, addiction or mental health, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.