SAMHSA Community Programs Improve Outcomes in Traumatized Youth

Children and youth involved in child welfare and juvenile justice face significant challenges, but improve when in SAMHSA community-based programs

According to data released today by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), children and youth participating in SAMHSA community-based programs who are involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems demonstrate improved outcomes after receiving trauma-informed services. This includes reduced behavioral and emotional problems, reduced trauma symptoms, reduced substance use problems, improved functioning in school and in the community, and improved ability to build relationships.

The report, Promoting Recovery and Resilience for Children and Youth Involved in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare Systems, shows that upon entering SAMHSA’s Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services Program for Children and Their Families (CMHI), 34 percent of children and youth involved in the child welfare system and 28 percent involved in the juvenile justice system had experienced four or more types of traumatic events. Among children and youth entering SAMHSA’s Donald J. Cohen National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative services, 67 percent involved in child welfare and 57 percent involved in the juvenile justice system had experienced four or more types of traumatic events. Traumatic events can include witnessing or experiencing: physical or sexual abuse; violence in families and communities; natural disasters; wartime events and terrorism; accidental or violent death of a loved one; and a life-threatening injury or illness. Trauma-informed services take into account knowledge about how the experience of trauma can impact the health and well-being of a person and a community.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 6.3 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 attempted suicide, which is consistent with SAMHSA data. Within 6 months of receiving services through CMHI, suicide attempts for children and youth in the child welfare system decreased from 6 percent to 3 percent and decreased further after12 months to 1 percent.

“Children and youth involved in the juvenile justice or child welfare system are more likely to be exposed to potentially traumatic events and face significant challenges,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “The good news is that SAMHSA initiatives help these children and youth build resilience and begin to recover by connecting them with supportive adults and providing trauma-informed, evidence-based treatment.”

The report was released today, National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (Awareness Day), SAMHSA’s annual celebration highlighting the importance of caring for every child’s mental health. Awareness Day is part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on public awareness and support. More than 130 National organizations and Federal agencies and programs are collaborating to provide greater access to community-based mental health services and supports for all children and youth with serious mental health conditions and their families as part of Awareness Day 2012. Across the country, more than 1,100 communities are celebrating this annual observance with local events; social media campaigns; and dance, music, and visual activities with children to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health.

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