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SAMHSA to fund new center for trauma education

The National Center for Trauma Education and Workforce Development will launch at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in fall 2021, building capacity among mental health clinicians nationally to serve traumatized youth and their families.

Based at UNC School of Social Work, the new center will form the cornerstone of a demonstration project that will be funded through a five-year, $3 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Center has equity focus

As part of its mission, the center will address disparities in trauma treatment with a focus on equity, according to principal investigator Sarah E. (Betsy) Bledsoe, Ph.D.

“We have prioritized schools of social work located in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, many who will be part of our first cohort participating in our inaugural summer institute, as well as agencies and schools of social work that employ and serve majority BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and persons of color] clinicians, clients, and students,” Bledsoe said.

“I am most proud of this component of the Center, as one of the main barriers to children who identify as BIPOC receiving evidence-based trauma care is the limited number of clinicians who identify as BIPOC who are trained in these empirically supported practices,” she added.

Virginia Strand, D.S.W., a former Fordham University professor who joins the UNC School of Social Work faculty this fall as a research professor, will serve with Bledsoe as a principal investigator for the project. Trenette Clark Goings, Ph.D., Spears-Turner Distinguished Professor at UNC School of Social Work, will serve as co-investigator.

In addition, a 14-member advisory board will represent stakeholders at many levels.

The center will focus on training clinicians to employ trauma-informed practice elements in effective, culturally relevant treatment plans, building on the earlier work of the National Center for Social Work Trauma Education and Workforce Development, also funded by SAMHSA.

Training includes online resources, summer institute

The research team will develop a case-based curriculum that emphasizes common trauma-informed practice elements, such as maximizing physical and psychological safety for children and partnering with appropriate agencies and systems to enhance well-being and resilience within the family.

Using the curriculum, the team will develop a video-based online training resource for mental health providers, including training modules on common practice elements. In addition to this free online training, the project will offer individual consultations to at least 120 clinicians across the globe annually.

The team will also design a three-credit clinical course for Master of Social Work students and will make this course available to at least 15 schools of social work each year. Over the five years of the project, more than 1,300 MSW students will complete the course.

The center will offer a summer institute to orient faculty to the new course and will develop a virtual learning collaborative to provide ongoing support to these faculty.

Childhood trauma affects millions

Childhood trauma can result from many adverse experiences, including abuse, bullying, human trafficking, separation from family, school or community violence, or even severe environmental events such as floods or fires.

Especially at risk are children who are homeless, who are from military families, who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, who identify as LGBTQ+, who are refugees, or whose families experience economic stress.

More than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by age 16, according to data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative.

Bledsoe noted that the new center will strengthen the abilities of social work professionals to implement research findings in their work with children who have experienced trauma.

“I’m excited to bring a National Child Traumatic Stress Network Center [to UNC-Chapel Hill] but even more excited about the implementation science research that this will facilitate and the opportunity to disseminate training in evidence-based trauma services for children to practitioners in community agencies and future social workers in schools of social work,” Bledsoe said.