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Case Study

How UCSF Developed the Trauma Recovery Center Model

10 Minute Read

Key Takeaways

The challenge

Trauma is an underlying risk factor for the clinical and social complexity of high-risk patients. Without addressing the lingering impact of trauma, care teams will find limited success stabilizing patients in need. Health care organizations must adopt trauma-informed care to meaningfully improve health outcomes and avoid inadvertently re-traumatizing patients, sowing distrust and alienation, and interfering with care plan adherence.

The organization

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Health is a 796-bed teaching health system. Over 25,000 staff and 3,300 faculty operate medical centers, children’s hospitals, and primary care and specialty clinics in San Francisco and throughout Northern California.

The origin

A trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center realized that although the UCSF Health may have been successful in healing physical trauma, patients still dealt with the long-term impact of emotional trauma. In response, UCSF launched the Trauma Recovery Center (TRC) in 2001 to provide comprehensive mental health and case management services to survivors of violent crime, particularly from underserved communities.

The result

The TRC has developed a trauma-informed treatment model that has been replicated across the country. This model of care costs less than traditional approaches and has improved the health, functioning, and satisfaction of patients treated.


Lower costs compared to a traditional fee-for-service model



How UCSF implemented the Trauma Recovery Center model

In response to growing research about the long-term impact of trauma on health, UCSF launched the TRC to support underserved communities. The TRC’s mental health clinicians offer evidence-based therapy and case management for adults who are:

  • Survivors of violent crime (including those who have experienced domestic violence, gang-related violence, violence at the hands of the police, or lost a loved one to homicide)
  • Survivors of sexual assault (services include a physical exam, prophylactic STI treatment, forensic evidence collection, law enforcement coordination, and connection with social services)
  • Immigrants who experienced violent crime outside the U.S.
  • Patients with a traumatic brain injury

The two steps

To meet the complex holistic needs of trauma survivors, the TRC took two steps:

  • Step

    Dedicate time to develop trusting relationships with trauma survivors

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  • Step

    Deploy multidisciplinary staff to offer specialized support

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Since its launch in 2001, UCSF’s TRC has helped thousands of patients recover from a range of traumatic events. The TRC measured the following clinical improvement among its patients:


Decrease in PTSD symptoms


Decrease in depression symptoms


Decrease in physical pain

Clients report satisfaction with the care they receive from the TRC, including a 16% increase in self-reported quality of life and a 94% increase in self-satisfaction. In addition, TRC leaders have been able to demonstrate how the model reduces overall costs to the health system. Compared to a traditional fee-for-service model of care, the TRC model lowers costs by 34%.

The TRC’s success in improving patient outcomes and reducing total cost of care has fostered buy-in through UCSF Health. More importantly, the TRC’s success has led systems across the country to replicate the model.

Supporting artifact


“How UCSF Launched the Trauma Recovery Center and Cut Costs by One Third,” Advisory Board’s Care Transformation Center, 2019; Advisory Board interviews and analysis.

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