Five years later, the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center remains a haven of support for those impacted by Route 91 and beyond

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Five years after the largest mass shooting in modern US history, it’s still okay to not feel okay.

Post Route 91, the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center has become a lifeline for those affected by the Strip disaster, providing comfort and resources to survivors, family members, first responders and the general public. And this service has become increasingly ambitious over time.

“It was like building an airplane as you fly it, but there’s no manual for that,” says Tennille Pereira, director of the center. “Even if you look at other mass violence incidents, they are all different and community resources are all different. But we have learned so much and have been able to truly advocate for many changes in our victim services and are beginning to integrate with emergency management so we are better prepared.”

The 4,700-square-foot center, managed by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, serves and provides outreach to up to 700 people per month, connecting them with mental health, legal aid, financial assistance and advocacy resources for victims of crime. Simply put, the professionals at the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center reach out to the mentally challenged they might never be able to reach on their own.

“If there’s a roadblock or hurdle, essentially we work to get through it on their behalf,” explains Pereira. “I really honestly think that if they had to do it on their own, they would just throw their hands in the air and walk away.”

Pereira recalls a Route 91 survivor whose childhood trauma resurfaced after the shooting. The center not only matched him with a mental health provider who would accept his insurance, but also financial help for childcare so he could attend appointments. In another case, an undocumented immigrant had been shot in the head in another incident. Plagued by seizures and unable to access medical services due to his status, he found the center through legal aid. Advocates tirelessly contacted nonprofits in search of a neurosurgeon who would take a limited number of pro bono patients. He became one of them.

The lobby of the Resiliency Center

“You hear stories, you see the devastation and it’s a lot,” says Pereira. “Then every once in a while that one person comes back and you see the impact on their life. And you’re just grateful that you can.”

Pereira recalls the influx of customers following the Route 91 shooting. “It was a lot of emotional support and recommendations for spiritual care,” she recalls. Since then, the role of the Center has gradually evolved.

“The workload is shifting, as it should be,” says Pereira. “We are seeing a declining demand for the October 1st services and an increased demand for general sacrifice services throughout the community, and that is what should be happening.”

In March, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada received $3 million in funding to expand the scope of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center. Pereira says those dollars will be used to build a new location next to Legal Aid’s current headquarters on East Charleston Avenue. The plan is for this website to provide “one-stop services for all victims of violent crime in Nevada,” Pereira says, but other Legal Aid services will also operate under the same umbrella.

While demand for Route 91-related services has declined, this time of year remains difficult, especially given the trauma reactivation associated with it. “It’s almost as if a program is written in our brains,” says Pereira, “and we don’t even have to consciously think that this time is coming. Our brain knows it, and it relates the trauma to what was going on back then—even the smells around the fall.”

Feelings and physical reactions from the moment of trauma can return, and the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center knows it. As the anniversary of October 1, 2017 approaches, the center has gathered around the community with a series of celebrations. Earlier this week, it hosted a skate night for first responders in Las Vegas, and a special online support group for those affected by the tragedy is going live on September 30. Locals can also create custom lanterns that night, a virtual evening of remembrance for Route 91 victims.

Now, as the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center continues to build and expand its services, Pereira hopes the community will respond. She stresses that the center always needs monetary donations, along with mental health professionals, to keep it running. Ultimately, she says, Vegas Valley’s support allows the company to continue doing what it does best – “shine light in all the darkness.”

Vegas Strong Resiliency Center Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 2915 W. Charleston Blvd. #100 vegasstrongrc.org702-455-2433.

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