Shootings, stabbings and murders are commonplace in many South Los Angeles neighborhoods. While some crimes draw immediate media and police attention, few agencies hang around to help victims or witnesses deal with the long-term psychological effects.
Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, hopes to change that dynamic with the launch of The Ulmer Institute (TUI), a nonprofit organization focused on treating, researching and training professional and community leaders on issues relating to urban psychological trauma.
The project is a partnership between centers of faith, the Israeli psychological community, the Jewish community, Los Angeles-based clinics, hospitals and research universities. The goal is to help people in need who cannot access affordable counseling services move beyond trauma into hope and recovery.
During the TUI kick-off celebration on May 18, Dr. Ulmer explained, “TUI is devoted to the context of urban trauma, from drive-by shootings to spousal and physical abuse, just the impending climate that something may happen.
“How do we prepare our children, our society, our culture to be resilient? We do fire and earthquake drills that happen once every few years and yet we’re not really prepared to deal with a drive-by shooting that happens every couple of weeks. Some people move on from it, but many are suffering from hidden hurts, fears, insecurities and that is what we are trying to address.”
The vision for TUI was inspired by an experience Dr. Ulmer had in Israel when a rocket exploded in Tel Aviv directly over his head. He said that he and his team saw the terrifying power of terrorism and the incredible resilience of the Israeli people in response.
Upon his return to the United States, he connected with Dr. Eyal Fruchter, chief psychologist for the Israeli Defense Force, who advised and partnered with Ulmer in applying Israeli hope and mental health solutions to psychologically traumatized communities in the United States.
Initially, TUI will operate in Los Angeles County offering The Trauma Support Helpline to those who have experienced a traumatic event and exhibit symptoms associated with Post Tramatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and trauma spectrum disorders, mental preparedness training targeting children who are more likely to experience violence in their communities and counseling service to those diagnosed with PTSD and trauma spectrum disorders and who are exhibiting symptoms that impact their everyday life.
Actor/Director Bill Duke, who was among the people attending the celebration, said, “Bishop Kenneth Ulmer is a great hero of mine. One of the most important things about him is he cares about our community, not only in terms of words, but in terms of action.
“A lot of our communities think somebody’s going to come save us. I don’t see anybody coming. If a monster has his foot on your neck, you can hope he takes his foot off or bite his toe. Bishop Ulmer is biting his toe and I celebrate that fact. We all have to bite that toe. We have to wake up. Bishop Ulmer is saying we have to save ourselves.”
Israel Consul General David Siegel and former Access Hollywood correspondent Shaun Robinson hosted the celebration. Actor/entertainer LL Cool J and his wife, designer Simone Smith, musician Verdine White, actor Louis Gossett Jr., Cantor Nathan Lam of Stephen S. Wise, Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City, and Dean Marilyn Flynn of the USC School of Social Work were also in attendance. The Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray voiced support via a video message.
Among TUI partners are Israeli Team, Champions Counseling Center, Faithful Central Bible Church, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Temple Beit T’shuvah, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israeli American Council, USC School of Social Work, Biola University, Azusa Pacific University and the East Los Angeles Community Union.
“This endeavor is long overdue. Our communities have been dying and treatment centers have been failing these communities. Due to the successful leadership training of our partners, we can help multitudes of people regain hope and become healthy participants in their respective communities,” said Dr. Ulmer.