State designates $1.5 million for new WMU Resiliency Center for Families and Children

Contact: Joel Krauss

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's College of Health and Human Services and the Unified Clinics will receive a state appropriation of $1.5 million for the development of a Resiliency Center for Families and Children to address the many needs of those experiencing trauma, toxic stress, chronic disability, neurodevelopmental disorders or substance use disorders. An additional $1.5 million has been appropriated but will need to be re-approved by the new legislature after this November's election.

"Resiliency is the ability to recover from traumatic events, adapt to change and recover following adversity," says Dr. Ron Cisler, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. "Research has shown that building resilience in families can ease intergenerational trauma, maximize the potential for recovery of individuals with addiction and generally improve function across the lifespan for children who experience trauma at an early age.

"This funding for the Resiliency Center will allow the Unified Clinics to increase the number of children and families receiving trauma assessments and treatment," he added.

The appropriation will also allow the clinics to add new services, like trauma assessments and treatment for parents and for those with substance use disorders, as well as resiliency-based interventions for families and sensory processing therapy for children.

Championed by expert WMU faculty who pioneered trauma services in the Children's Trauma Assessment Center of Southwest Michigan, the Resiliency Center will bring together multiple clinical services and act as a hub where children, adults and families can be referred to the resources they need to optimize their healing and recovery.

"Frequently, clients present with multiple concerns but only receive one discipline-specific assessment or treatment," says Dr. James Henry, director of the Children's Trauma Assessment Center. "The Resiliency Center will allow clients to access multiple clinical resources to potentially treat underlying issues due to trauma, toxic stress, anxiety, depression or a substance use."

This center will integrate the services of the Children's Trauma Assessment Center with services from other clinics such as behavioral health, speech-language pathology, audiology, vision, occupational and physical therapy. Additionally, clinical expertise from the college's other disciplines like public health, social work, holistic health and nursing will also be incorporated.

The center will focus on resiliency by instating a uniform assessment and referral process across the clinics and continuing to support professional and educational collaboration where students and clinicians are allowed to learn from each other.

"College of Health and Human Services faculty who supervise at the Unified Clinics work hard to promote interprofessional learning activities," says Dr. Carol Sundberg, director of Unified Clinics. "The Resiliency Center is the professional extension of that educational mindset—illustrating that comprehensive health care solutions may be better found when looking through a multidisciplinary lens."

The center will hire a care manager to facilitate knowledge sharing and resource allocation while assessing patient needs to create personalized care plans across disciplines.

The college is assembling a steering committee made up of individuals from various disciplines housed in it. Among other things, the steering committee will formalize the mission, vision and objectives of the Resiliency Center. The committee will also identify "Center Cores" to guide interactions of faculty, researchers, staff, students and the community and help implement and sustain the work of the center.

"The state funding this effort is huge, and this center is going to be so important and impactful for our families and our community," says Cisler. "I have already spoken with Representative Mary Whiteford to thank her for sponsoring this initiative and introducing it to the state's budget."

Importantly, the appropriation received bipartisan support, which highlights the importance of resiliency services to our community, he adds.

Learn more about the Children's Trauma Assessment Center and the College of Health and Human Services.

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