(SAVANNAH, GA / COASTAL GA) Childhood trauma and mental health issues in children, youth and young adults have risen sharply in the Savannah area, driven in great part by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the existing support structure has received a four-year, $600,000 grant to address the issue.
The Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC), the local planning and accountability organization for agencies addressing health and well-being issues, will administer the grant with its partners, which include Gateway Community Service Board, the Chatham County Safety Net and Loop It Up Savannah. The resulting coalition will be known as Resilient Coastal Georgia, a subset of the statewide organization, Resilient Georgia.
The funds are coming from the Pittulloch Foundation to support mental health system change and policies for children, youth and families.
“This couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Lizann Roberts, director of the CGIC. “The grant will enable us to train schools, first responders, and others to help prevent adverse childhood experiences and build a trauma-responsive community.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescents jumped 31% in 2020, compared with 2019.
Roberts says addressing childhood trauma is important for today as well as to prevent serious health problems years in the future.
“CDC studies from more than 144,000 adults show that children who are exposed to food insecurities, domestic violence, homelessness, gun violence and other traumatic events are linked to chronic health problems, mental health, substance misuse and reduced educational and occupational achievement,” she added.
CGIC won the grant, in part, because it already has an effective existing framework for tackling issues and tracking results. It was charged with implementing proven, evidence-based strategies to help prevent current and future problems arising from childhood trauma.
Among the approaches which will be included are expansions of programs that have already demonstrated their worth. Among these are the Mindfulness Zone/Classes, which were pioneered locally by Loop It Up Savannah, that help schools and students understand if a child needs to have some quiet time to de-escalate tension. Also on the radar is the Handle With Care App, which the Savannah Police Department and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System began using about a year ago. SCCPSS developed the app that allows a responding police officer to notify a child’s school if that child has been involved in a potentially traumatic event.
“Our intention is to work within the systems already established,” Roberts said. This may include the schools’ early learning centers, faith-based organizations and churches, libraries, first responders, and juvenile courts. We will work alongside them to build a trauma response for children. Developing systems change and policies will help us bounce back from the adverse traumatic mental health issues caused by this pandemic and other issues.”
While the grant is expected to help fast-track positive change, Roberts cautions that the potential for significant roadblocks may still lie ahead. In Chatham County, for example, a six-month waiting list often stands between a child and a therapist. Therefore, more therapists trained in trauma-based therapy are needed to reach the growing demand for services.
“This is rebuilding a better system, post-pandemic, to help administrators address the needs of more children,” said Roberts. “We are launching an initiative to build a resilient community, to decrease adverse childhood experiences and improve childhood well-being. We will have a strong evaluation plan that will help us measure expected outcomes.”
The Resilient Coastal Georgia kickoff is planned for Thursday, Feb 24 from 8:30 – 10 a.m. at the Behavioral Health Crisis Center, 2121 E. DeRenne Ave, Savannah, GA 31406.
For more information, contact Lizann Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT RESILIENT GEORGIA
Resilient Georgia is a statewide coalition of more than 80 partners and over 600 stakeholders committed to building a stronger, more resilient Georgia. Through a network of public and private partners, Resilient Georgia is creating a pipeline of trauma-informed behavioral health services and resources that support children and families who have experienced adversity. This integrated system includes prevention, early intervention, research, advocacy and policy, and care implementation and coordination. Learn more at resilientga.org or contact Lizann Roberts at email@example.com
ABOUT RESILIENT COASTAL GEORGIA
Resilient Coastal Georgia, a subset of the statewide organization, Resilient Georgia, was formed in 2022 to administer a four-year, $600,000 grant from the Pittulloch Foundation to support mental health system change and policies for children, youth and families in the Savannah area affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 25-member steering committee includes those representing local schools, faith-based groups, the courts, first responders, mental health, government, non-profits and youth-serving organizations.
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