UMass Medical School co-hosts child and family summit focused on trauma and resilience

September 25, 2018

A panel of leaders from UMass Medical School, state government and community organizations gathered to share expertise, insights and best practices at Trauma and Resilience: A Child and Family Summit held at UMass Medical School on Sept. 24.

Hosted in collaboration with Senate President Emerita Harriette L. Chandler, City of Worcester Health and Human Services, Children’s Friend, Inc. and YWCA Central Massachusetts, the summit focused on developing ideas that could lead to pilot programs that address trauma and resilience for Worcester families.

“Trauma that happens in childhood has lifelong effects on children, and later adults’ minds and bodies. It can cripple their potential and set them on a trajectory where their great potential may be lost. By focusing on resiliency models and the development of a pilot in Worcester, all of us can become part of the solution,” UMass Medical School Chancellor Michael F. Collins said in welcoming participants to the summit.

“At UMass Medical school we’ve invested in solutions from providing clinical psychiatry services to a foster care assessment clinic and programs to address trauma and child well-being. We’re partners in confronting this difficult challenge and look forward to development of a pilot that will improve children’s lives and let them soar to their full potential,” Collins said.

Epidemiologic studies demonstrate that about 68 percent of children in the United States been exposed to traumatic events. Exposure is even more pervasive in low income, refugee, and immigrant populations. Such exposure to trauma is linked with acute behavioral health needs. 

“Children are 100 percent of our future and we can’t afford to let anybody slip through the cracks,” U.S. Rep James P. McGovern said while delivering opening remarks. He said he looks forward to learning about the recommendations generated by the summit, and working to move them toward implementation.

Designing programs to help Worcester’s children and families has long been a priority for Chandler, who held a similar summit several years ago. That summit, she said, resulted in a pilot program that never received funding. Chandler said she’s committed to success the second time around. “All I am looking for is a model that will work here in Worcester and is replicable elsewhere, because what happens in Worcester can happen elsewhere,” she said.

Lt. Gov Karyn Polito thanked the summit participants for focusing on the important work of making sure there are safety nets in place that allow children and families to live healthy, whole lives. She said the opioid crisis and ongoing discussions around sexual assault highlight the need for increased programming in Worcester and all communities across Massachusetts. 

“How do we break these cycles? How do we break out of the cycle of addiction...How do we break out of the cycle of violence?” Polito asked. “We’re counting on you – no pressure –  to come up with something that’s innovative, that’s modern, that’s up-to-date that we can learn from.”

Much of the summit’s time was dedicated to facilitated discussion groups, which tackled issues that include the gaps, challenges, and disparities in the current system, as well as evaluating what’s worked and why. The day also featured a panel discussion highlighting barriers to and factors for successful trauma treatment, as well as trauma’s link to youth violence.

Several Massachusetts state agency leaders attended and spoke at the summit, including Department of Children and Families Commissioner Linda Spears, Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Jeff McCue and Emily Sherwood, deputy commissioner of Child, Youth and Family Services at the Department of Mental Health. Worcester County legislators also were in attendance to both provide constituent insight, and collaborate on solutions.

Audrey Smolkin, MPP, director of Child and Family Policy at UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine, was part of the summit planning committee.

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