Purdue University Northwest’s (PNW) department of Psychology was recently awarded a five-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to partner with pediatric healthcare clinics in Lake, Porter and La Porte counties to support mental health services and interventions for child traumatic stress.

The project, Northwest Indiana Identification and Management of Pediatric Experiences of Trauma and Underlying Stress (NWI IMPETUS), was selected as part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative to implement routine screenings and brief in-office and group interventions for child traumatic stress, as well as increase access to longer-term services by training large cohorts of local mental health providers in specific evidence-based interventions for child trauma.

“The size and scope of this type of direct mental health services grant is unprecedented at Purdue Northwest,” said Amanda Zelechoski, NWI IMPETUS Project Director and professor of Psychology at PNW. “The clinical and research expertise of our faculty, as well as our new psychology graduate programs, position us extremely well to work with our pediatric healthcare partners in the region to change the trajectories for our most vulnerable youth and families.”.

Pediatric primary care clinics have become a key entry point for the rapidly increasing number of children exposed to potentially traumatic or stressful experiences that result in physical and mental health symptoms. PNW will partner with two of the largest pediatric clinics in Northwest Indiana, Associated Pediatricians and HealthLinc. The grant funds will be used to implement child trauma screenings, add behavioral health professionals at each pediatric clinic, provide brief in-office and group interventions and train 25-50 therapists per year in several child trauma intervention models.

“HealthLinc is proud to partner with PNW to prioritize and normalize mental health support for children,” stated Beth Wrobel, HealthLinc CEO. “Partnerships between healthcare and universities are essential for driving progress, addressing health disparities and improving the quality of life.”

A primary component of the NWI IMPETUS program is to hire and embed mental health professionals into the pediatric clinic, which has long been a goal for Associated Pediatricians.

“Mental health care has become such a large part of the care we provide to kids and being able to provide timely interventions and resources to families is critical,” said Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, pediatrician and partner/owner of Associated Pediatricians. “The impact of bringing these mental health providers into our office space where they can work directly with our families is going to be tremendous.  We’re grateful to partner with PNW to advance the care we provide to the communities we serve.”

“The effects of traumatic stress on children can look similar to other behavioral health issues, like ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders, but the treatments can be quite different,” Zelechoski added. “So, it’s important that we screen appropriately and support children and families with the right interventions.”

For more information, visit pnw.edu/nwi-impetus.

NWI IMPETUS is currently hiring a project coordinator and several master’s-level behavioral health professionals. In addition, the project is recruiting NWI licensed mental health professionals to participate in the 2024 child trauma intervention training cohort. To apply for these positions or receive more information about the trainings, send an email to nwi_impetus@pnw.edu.

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