Lutheran focuses on traumatic stress in children

Richard Brown, LCSW-R, PhD, program director (seated third from left) with staff at NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers Sunset Terrace. They are receiving training from Dr. Brown and his team to help reduce traumatic stress in middle school-aged children.

After years of careful research, New York University (NYU) Lutheran has begun training more than 100 medical and behavioral health professionals to help children in southwest Brooklyn recover from the crippling effects of psychological trauma.

NYU Lutheran Family Health Center said on Wednesday that the professionals include school psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and clinical social workers within NYU Lutheran’s behavioral health centers and school-based programs.

The initiative was made possible thanks to the late Giuseppe Costantino, PhD, who first secured a US$2.4 million grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration in June 2012 to study the effects of childhood traumatic stress, NYU Lutheran said.

Under Dr. Costantino’s leadership, NYU Lutheran said it established a Child Traumatic Stress (CTS) research project and became a participating member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

“He had an acute instinct for understanding the health disparities in serving the marginalized populations of the southwest Brooklyn communities,” said NYU Lutheran CTS project program director Richard Brown, LCSW-R, Ph.D.

Dr. Brown said that the CTS research is a significant stepping stone for the community.

“The more parents know about how to care for their traumatized child(ren), the more we as health professionals can work collaboratively towards offering the essentials of quality trauma assessment and care, and treatment for children,” he said.

In addition to the grant, NYU Lutheran said it was able to collaborate with two behavioral health graduate schools, the Ponce Health Sciences University and the Carlos Albizu Universidad in Puerto Rico.

“We were able to supervise five English- and Spanish-speaking psychology interns to continue their field of study under NYU Lutheran’s CTS project,” Brown Brown. “Over the first three years of the program, each of the five interns earned their Ph. D degrees.”

The CTS project, operating from the NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers Sunset Terrace site in Brooklyn, works in collaboration with the NYU Lutheran school-based health centers, particularly in primary schools 1, 24, 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The program designed a CTS scale, and applied it to more than 800 Latino, Asian, and Middle Eastern boys and girls, from second-through fifth-grades, according to NYU Lutheran.

It said the result of the CTS scales revealed that about 450 children tested positive for intense traumatic stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, NYU Lutheran said only 340 children and parents agreed to participate in the therapeutic intervention phase of the program.

It said the program also required the participation of one parent or caregiver of the traumatized child.

“Breaking barriers to reach out to children who have been traumatized by life changing events is important,” said Larry K. McReynolds, president of NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers. “There is a great need for more behavioral health interventions to be in place to support children and their families experiencing trauma so they can receive the needed treatment, regardless of their mental health status.”

NYU Lutheran said the children met in small groups during the school day and after school, as their schedules permitted.

The children were able to recognize trauma-induced situations, and to share stories about their experiences that caused them anxiety, anger and mood changes, NYU Lutheran said.

It said the program therapists used relaxation techniques, picture cards and role-playing as interventions in the treatment phase of the program.

In addition, NYU Lutheran said parents or primary care givers of the children met in frequently scheduled trauma-focused educational groups, to learn interventions that they could perform with their children to reduce the impact of trauma. These groups were facilitated by program staff psychologists.

The NYU Lutheran said the CTS research project will continue its work with children and families to track the outcomes of the research.

NYU Lutheran said it is an academic, community health care and social support system that includes NYU Lutheran Medical Center, NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers, Augustana Center, senior housing and Community Care Organization.

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