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Mt. Hope Family Center expands evidence-based trauma services

August 22, 2022
Two federal grants will enhance and sustain Mt. Hope Family Center’s commitment to addressing the effects of trauma across the life course, says Sheree Toth, the center's executive director.

New federal funding will support the center’s programs addressing child and family trauma at individual and systemic levels.

The University of Rochester’s Mt. Hope Family Center has received two federal grants to support its evidence-based treatment and services helping children and families who have experienced trauma and to train and support professionals nationwide. Together, the grants will help clinicians and researchers address child and family trauma at both the individual and systemic levels.

“These grants will enhance and sustain Mt. Hope Family Center’s commitment to addressing the effects of trauma across the life course,” says Sheree Toth, a University of Rochester professor of psychology and psychiatry, and the executive director of the Mt. Hope Family Center. The center, which combines research, clinical training, and intervention at a single location, provides services to more than 900 at-risk children and families in the region annually.

The funding, totaling nearly $1 million per year over five years, was awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and will support two specific projects: STRONGER and Sustaining Change.

Child trauma in the wake of COVID-19, community violence, and war

One of the grants funds project STRONGER, which stands for Supporting Trauma Recovery Opportunities and Nurturing Growing Emotional Resilience. The project, which was established in 2016 and is directed by Alisa Hathaway, will allow the center to expand its in-demand services for children and families in the Greater Rochester region who have been exposed to and affected by trauma.

“We’ve been inundated with requests for trauma services because of the pandemic and the increase in community violence, both of which have had ripple effects across families, schools, and neighborhoods,” says Jody Todd Manly, a research professor in the Department of Psychology, the clinical director of Mt. Hope Family Center, and the principal investigator for both grants. “It’s been described as a tsunami of needs—and this funding gives us flexibility to address those needs.”

Beyond addressing the realities of COVID-19 and exposure to community violence, the center is responding to the local impact of wars and conflicts abroad. To that end, STRONGER will emphasize providing culturally informed care for the unaccompanied refugee, immigrant, and international children in the community who may have experienced traumatic stress. Trauma-informed mental health services will also be available to area military-affiliated children and families through telehealth technologies.

Manly says, “With telehealth, we’re able to serve the surrounding and outlying counties in the Greater Rochester region, many of which have significant need, but fewer available resources.”

Through STRONGER, the center will serve approximately 150 children and caregivers annually, for a total of 750 individuals served over the next five years. The funding also enables the Mt. Hope Family Center to continue its membership in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

“Congratulations to the University of Rochester on this federal funding to expand the Mt. Hope Family Center’s STRONGER Program for children in need of mental health services,” says Congressman Joe Morelle. “I’m proud to support their extraordinary work breaking down cultural barriers for children facing trauma related to war and resettlement—giving them a chance to thrive and succeed. I look forward to our continued partnership finding solutions to uplift local families.”

Empowering trauma services professionals nationwide

While STRONGER prioritizes bringing services to children and their families, the Sustaining Change project aims to effect change at the systemic level by providing training, consultation, and technical assistance for child- and family-serving organizations and systems nationwide. The goal is to improve the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based treatment models for child trauma among professionals. It builds on the work of the TRANSFORM Center, a national center run by the University of Rochester and the University of Minnesota that was established in 2018 to prevent and address child maltreatment.

One of the challenges facing organizations and agencies providing trauma-informed care has been the high rate of staff turnover, according to Manly. “Our intention is to develop a nationwide support network of clinicians and practitioners, one that not only implements evidence-based trauma services and training, but also ensures that those services and trainings are sustained,” she says.

“One-and-done workshops rarely stick,” adds Manly. Instead, Sustaining Change will implement several 12- to 18-month-long learning collaboratives that include ongoing trainings supported by regular consultations and leadership forums.

The project will train more than 1,000 professionals at child-serving organizations nationwide, including locally. “If a practitioner moves out of our region, they will likely move to an area where we’ve been training other practitioners, allowing us to connect them with services providers there, and vice versa,” says Manly.


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