WSU News

WSU takes success at addressing child trauma statewide

SPOKANE, Wash. – More than 40 schools and small districts statewide will get help from Washington State University to aid traumatized children during the next four years, thanks to a $1.6 million grant.
The Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of Eastern Washington—a unit of WSU Extension—received the grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through its National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. The grant establishes a SAMHAS Trauma Center based at WSU.
The funding will enable AHEC and its partners to take the foundation they have built locally over the past years and implement it on a statewide level.
“We’re very excited that we’ve now hit a critical mass in the capacity of the work we’re doing,” said Christopher Blodgett, director of AHEC and the principal investigator on the grant. “We want to help teachers and other school workers to understand the impact of trauma so they have the knowledge to deal with it.”
The team will collaborate with five of Washington’s nine educational service districts to implement its trauma intervention method in 10 schools and small school districts per year, disseminating its approach of strengthening educational practice by focusing on positive developmental growth in kids.
Blodgett said the approach is crucial for children who are exposed to trauma, but it benefits all children by creating a more stable school environment. He stressed the importance of training non-teaching staff, such as bus drivers and crossing guards, in addition to teachers.
“You never know who is going to be the meaningful adult in a child’s life,” he said.
The project builds on earlier work by Blodgett’s team on children’s exposure to domestic violence and maltreatment. For the past seven years, the focus has been on complex trauma, the chronic exposure to a cluster of harmful events such as violence, substance abuse, homelessness and parents’ divorce. It is estimated that complex trauma affects an estimated 25 to 30 percent of children nationwide. 
Over the years, AHEC has built an extensive network of community partners to tackle the task of addressing child trauma in the Spokane area and beyond. Local partners include Spokane Public Schools; Mead, Central Valley, East Valley and Cheney school districts; Community Colleges of Spokane Head Start; and Spokane Regional Health District.
Thanks to these partnerships, AHEC has been successful at securing funding to continue development of the trauma work. In 2010, AHEC received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop ways to integrate social emotional learning and trauma response into publicly funded early learning programs in Spokane County. The same year, AHEC received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement a school-based trauma intervention program for children in Spokane area schools.
Blodgett and one of his staff members, Natalie Turner, were quoted in a June 2012 Huffington Post article on the merits of trauma-informed schools. Walla Walla’s Lincoln High School, which was mentioned in the article, received its trauma training from AHEC. 
About AHEC
A part of WSU Extension, the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of Eastern Washington works with university and community allies to promote health and wellness for underserved and at-risk populations through research, education and community development. Based at WSU Spokane, it belongs to a network of AHEC organizations throughout the United States that focuses on health professions education and training, as well as recruitment and retention of health care providers. Research conducted at AHEC has focused primarily on fostering long-term success in early learning and K-12 education and evaluating mental and behavioral programs.
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