June 22, 2016

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Intervention does indeed give children and their families hope is the message that Ginger Meyer wanted to convey as host of a mental health conference Tuesday afternoon at John A. Logan College. The conference celebrated progress made with approximately 200 Southern Illinois abused children in 23 counties through trauma-focused therapy.

Meyer serves as clinical director of the Children’s Medical and Mental Health Resource Network, a program developed through the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and supported financially by the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children ($100,000) and the SIU School of Medicine ($80,000).

“The CMMHRN continues to train fellows and identify cases of child abuse,” Meyer said. “It takes aim at expanding its research and adding new resources for families and providers. We want to have an ongoing training curriculum for multiple disciplines regarding trauma-informed care, trauma-informed practice and evidence-based trauma interventions.

“In the future, we would like to create a national trauma center in collaboration with our partners that would focus on training and educating providers on trauma-focused therapy,” Meyer said.

The network is also in the process of creating a new online database that will allow parents more easily locate a trauma-focused therapist.

“For children and teens, these resources can’t come soon enough,” Meyer said. “The medical care and therapy the network provides is one of the first steps to healing.”

A total of 19 care teams have been formed throughout Southern Illinois to date with 65 trained clinicians on Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

“This treatment is not just a model of therapy, but a unique process of maintaining hope for many kids who may have lost hope due to childhood trauma,” said Kim Honey, a trauma-focused therapist.

Jo Poshard, co-founder of the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, said there were only 11 nationally certified TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) clinicians in Illinois prior to the creation of the mental health network in the region.

“Our goal was to add dramatically to this number in order that no child would be deprived of the trauma counseling he or she needs to recover from abuse,” Poshard said. “We believe this goal is in the process of being accomplished.”

According to information provided by the SIU School of Medicine, close to 200 children from March of last year going forward and ranging in age from 3-to-18 were found to have experienced trauma such as sexual and emotional abuse. And about two-thirds of that total were said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. David Steward, representing the SIU School of Medicine, said the mental health network “helps make children healthy” and allows them to become “good, productive citizens as adults.”

This network, he said, is one in which people “can work together to make lives better throughout the region.”

Amy Escott, representing the Missouri Academy of Child Trauma Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said mental health care providers or trauma-focused therapists for children are now much more prevalent in Southern Illinois, and they’re clearly making a difference.

“Over the last 18 months, over 200 children have been impacted by our training,” Escott said. “My biggest hope is that people realize that kids can and do get better after they have experienced something traumatic (sexual abuse). They can go on, through treatment, to lead happy, healthy lives. This is not something that needs to haunt children for the rest of their lives.”