Better care and more effective services for young children exposed to trauma will become available with the funding awarded Oct. 1 to a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) researcher.
The four-year grant will pay for the Arkansas Network for Early Stress and Trauma (NEST), a collaborative effort of UAMS, Mid-South Health Systems in Jonesboro and Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale.
NEST will provide individualized treatment for children under 5 who have been exposed to various forms of trauma as well as training to at least 70 mental health professionals on methods of caring for young patients using evidence-based practices.
Benjamin Sigel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine is principal investigator for the grant awarded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
An estimated 7,000 children in Arkansas under the age of 5 are exposed to traumatic stress every year. The traumatic events can range from sexual or physical abuse to natural disasters and domestic violence. These events can cause severe problems with the social, behavioral and psychological growth of a young child.
"There's only a handful of people around the state who are equipped to treat children under 5 who have experienced trauma using evidenced-based practices, not enough to really make an impact," said Sigel. "We will do our best to get these kids better care and more effective services."
The grant will also go toward producing training materials and other resources that can be used by medical, educational and legal personnel to help them recognize the symptoms of childhood traumatic stress.
The year-long training will include personal and group sessions for mental health professionals, including consultation calls via telephone or video. A group of national experts in childhood development will work with the NEST team to improve the care of the state's youngest trauma victims.