UWM helps ramp up mental health services for traumatized children

The Institute for Child and Family Well-being will provide training to mental health clinicians to make evidence-based mental health practices more widely available in Milwaukee and Racine counties to children who have experienced trauma.

Funding for the five-year project is provided by a $1.8 million grant awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We know there are successful practices, but some of the most vulnerable children and families don’t have access to them,” said UW-Milwaukee associate professor of social work Josh Mersky, who is the principal investigator on the project. “In Southeast Wisconsin, this project will help to bridge the gap between the services available and the needs of trauma-exposed children.”

The Institute for Child and Family Well-being is a community-university partnership between Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the UW-Milwaukee Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Mersky, who is a co-director of the institute, said the project is one of the most significant collaborations between the institutions to date.

Clinicians at Children’s Hospital will receive training in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, child-parent psychotherapy and parent-child interaction therapy. UWM researchers will evaluate the program and participate in its implementation.

Dimitri Topitzes, a co-founder of the institute and associate professor of social welfare at UWM, will be among the professionals providing training in parent-child interaction therapy.

The five-year project is supported by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. The network works collaboratively to develop and promote effective trauma treatment, services and other resources for children, adolescents and families exposed to an array of traumatic events.

The institute will partner with the Department of Children and Families and the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health on the initiative, which builds on the Wisconsin Trauma Project – a statewide trauma-informed care training program.

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