As an intern at Western’s Children’s Trauma Assessment Center (CTAC), Steve Weaver has seen firsthand that trauma rarely touches just one person at a time. Coordinated care with individuals, family members and caregivers covering every aspect of a child’s life is essential to treatment.
“Interdisciplinary contact is critical to being able to treat the whole person,” says Weaver, who will graduate this summer with a Master of Social Work degree. “It’s important to have a comprehensive lens to look at all pieces and know what the full experience is for the child and those who are in the child’s life.”
Western is making those connections through its Resiliency Center for Families and Children.
Established by the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) in 2020 through a state appropriation of $1.5 million, the center addresses the many needs of those experiencing trauma, toxic stress, chronic disability, neurodevelopmental disorders or substance use disorder.
The college will use the funding in its efforts to impact resiliency in the region, including the enhancement of many services at CTAC and the Unified Clinics, a large multispecialty group practice that provides clinical training experiences for WMU students, according to Dr. Ron Cisler, CHHS dean. The funding will allow CTAC and the Unified Clinics to increase the number of children and families receiving trauma assessments and treatment. This includes new services such as treatment for families in which parents have a history of substance use disorders, resiliency-based interventions for families and sensory-processing therapy
“There are all these opportunities to lend a sharper lens to what we do,” says Weaver. “The focus has been on children, and I’m really excited to see how we can look at the whole family system.”
The intent of the new center is not to duplicate but coordinate services, becoming 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 CTAC. “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 services from CTAC with services from other clinics housed in the Unified Clinics, such as behavioral health, speech-language pathology, audiology, vision, occupational therapy, physical therapy and medicine. Clinical expertise from CHHS’ other disciplines, including public health, social work, holistic health and nursing, will also be incorporated.
Children and families are screened, assessed and directed to services that will best fulfill their needs. Resiliency case manager Shelbey Watson-Beasley, also a social work graduate student, coordinates the care for these children and families.
“At the Resiliency Center, we’re not just assessing them, we’re getting them connected to the care and resources they need and coordinating care for people who come into the clinic,” Watson-Beasley says.
“One of our many concerns is making sure that this center is sustainable,” says Cisler, who is also principal investigator of the Resiliency Center and chair of the center’s steering committee. “We want to provide long-term service solutions and eventually expand the reach of the center to other local and regional communities in need.”
The goal is to create a one-stop shop for these families, increase efficiencies and potentially double the number of children who can receive trauma assessment in a year, adds Amy Perricone, clinical director for the Resiliency Center.
“There’s always been a coordination of some services, but this is really solidifying and having a seamless process,” Perricone says. “We’re filling a gap to keep families connected to the services they need.”
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 able to learn from each other.
A steering committee made up of individuals from various disciplines at Western and WMU Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine has identified “Center Cores” to guide interactions of faculty, researchers, staff, students and the community and help implement and sustain the work of the center. The goal is to become a leader in supporting care for families, children and communities suffering from trauma-related issues and a national center for the development of research and education regarding trauma-related conditions. This all while maintaining culturally responsive, interdisciplinary practice, education and research, according to its mission. ■