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National Child Trauma Network Responds To Latest HHS Report On U.S. Mental Health Needs

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, whose report to President Bush this week highlights the seriousness of childhood traumatic stress and the need to better address the mental health needs of children, should be commended for drawing attention to this ongoing problem, say the directors of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS), a network run collaboratively by the University of California at Los Angeles and Duke University Medical Center.

"The Commission identifies the research and treatment of trauma as an important focus of mental health reform," said NCCTS co-director John Fairbank, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. "More than 25 percent of American youth experience a serious traumatic event by their sixteenth birthday, and many children suffer multiple and repeated traumas. The ability to provide better access to mental health care for kids is of paramount importance."

Common sources of childhood trauma include abuse and neglect; serious accidental injury; disasters and terrorism; experiencing or witnessing violence in neighborhoods, schools and homes; and treatment for life-threatening illness. Consequences of untreated child traumatic stress in children include additional mental health problems, substance abuse, trouble in school and a loss of hope in the future.

"The report offers encouraging news for the thousands of children and families affected by trauma in our nation each year," said NCCTS co-director Bob Pynoos, M.D., of UCLA. "Our nation's policymakers, under the leadership of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, should work quickly and decisively to enact and implement the recommendations outlined in this report."

Traumatic stress can interfere with children's ability to concentrate and learn, and seriously delay development of their brains and bodies. Treatment from a mental health professional who has training and experience working with traumatized children can reduce child traumatic stress and minimize physical, emotional and social problems, NCCTS leaders say.

Pynoos and Fairbank commended the commission for other positive recommendations that include:

· Connecting fragmented mental health systems to eliminate gaps in services for the care of children;

· Supporting greater use of and improving access to evidence-based practices in treatment;

· Accelerating research so treatments for trauma can continue to be refined and improved;

· Early screening and identification of mental illnesses in children;

· Improving access to treatments in communities;

· Improving linkages to other service systems, such as juvenile justice and schools;

· Improving cultural competence in treatment, and

· Supporting President Bush's call for parity in insurance coverage of treatments.

"Each of these issues must be addressed for children as well as for adults," said Fairbank. "The report clearly identified the treatment of children, as well as early identification and intervention for mental health issues, as important components of addressing our nation's mental health needs."

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was created in 2001 through a coordinated effort of child traumatic stress research and treatment centers from across the U.S. and funding from the Center for Mental Health Services, a branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

By 2004, the Network will include more than 50 sites working collaboratively to address the issues of child trauma in our nation. The network's mission is raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families and communities throughout the U.S.

Additional information about NCCTS, as well as information about child trauma, is available at www.nctsnet.org.

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