Experiencing trauma — events such as parental divorce, living with a family member who is substance dependent, abuse, and neglect — strongly correlate to health-risk behaviors later in life, including substance use. With this understanding, many providers are seeking ways to acknowledge and address trauma as a hidden, underlying risk in patients’ lives.

This webinar, cosponsored by the Center for Health Care Strategies and ACEs Connection, highlighted how two providers operating in vastly different settings have incorporated a trauma-informed approach to care into their day-to-day practices for treating substance use disorder, and how doing so has shaped the experiences of their patients and staff. Daniel Sumrok, MD, DFASAM, ABAM, ABPM, family physician and addiction specialist, who formerly led the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s (UTHSC) College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science, discussed the challenges of treating substance use disorder in a rural setting and his approach to helping patients break the cycle of what he calls “ritualized, compulsive comfort-seeking.” Rosalind De Lisser, MS, FNP, PMHNP, is an associate clinical professor at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and director of integrated behavioral health services at UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program. She discussed UCSF’s efforts to build a clinical model for individuals with HIV, substance use, and mental health disorders, and the importance of taking a trauma-informed approach for this population.

Made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this webinar is a product of Advancing Trauma-Informed Care, a national initiative aimed at understanding how trauma-informed approaches can be practically implemented across the health care sector.


I. Welcome and Introduction

Speakers: Meryl Schulman, Program Officer, CHCS; Jane Stevens, Founder and Publisher, ACEs Connection; and Susan Mende, MPH, Senior Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

M. Schulman and J. Stevens provided an overview of the webinar, welcome participants, and introduced the two presenters. S. Mende offered her perspective on the importance of integrating trauma-informed care principles into treatment for substance use disorder.

II. Taking a Trauma-Informed Approach to Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Rural Tennessee

Speakers: Daniel Sumrok, MD, DFASAM, ABAM, ABPM, Family Physician and Addiction Specialist

D. Sumrok described his experience educating his patients in rural Tennessee about the connection between substance use disorder and childhood adversity, and its impact on health outcomes. He discussed how his clinic has integrated trauma-informed care principles into everyday practice at the UTHSC’s College of Medicine’s Center for Addiction Science, which was recently recognized as a Center of Excellence in Addiction Medicine by the Addiction Medicine Foundation.

III. Providing Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Trauma-Informed Primary Care for High-Risk Women in San Francisco

Speakers: Rosalind De Lisser, MS, FNP, PMHNP, Director of Integrated Behavioral Health Services, UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program

R. De Lisser shared her perspective on the relationship between trauma and substance use disorder, how a trauma-informed approach to care supports women with substance use disorder, and what it looks like in practice at UCSF’s Women’s HIV Program, where she provides medication-assisted treatment. She also discussed initial observations from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration-funded program called Health Empowerment and Recovery, a model for the treatment of substance use disorders in women with HIV.

Related Resources

Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center – Resource center offering a one-stop information hub for health care stakeholders interested in implementing trauma-informed care.

At the Front Lines in Tennessee: Rural Clinic Offers Trauma-Informed Treatment for Substance Use Disorder – Blog post highlighting Dr. Sumrok’s clinic in rural Tennessee, and how it is implementing trauma-informed care to treat patients with substance use disorder.

Incorporating Patients’ Voices at the Women’s HIV Program: University of California, San Francisco – Profile examining how the Women’s HIV Program at University of California, San Francisco is working to provide a holistic model of trauma-informed primary care to improve health outcomes of its patients.

Bad News—Good News: Each Additional ACE Increases Opioid Relapse Rate by 17 Percent – Article exploring a recent study that demonstrated the significant impact of adverse childhood experiences on a person’s risk of relapse during medication-assisted opioid treatment and how clinics that integrate trauma-informed practices can reduced relapse rates.