August 17, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

Organizations Partner to Support Children's Mental Health Needs in Tornado-Ravaged Areas

MONTGOMERY – As some children from Alabama communities affected by the April 2011 tornadoes begin a new school, a timely training will be held to address the effects of the tornadoes on the well-being and mental health of children. The Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics (AL-AAP) and the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) have partnered with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to secure a $36,000 Friends of Children Fund grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The grant will allow the organizations to conduct a back-to-school project this fall to support pediatricians, mental health and school professionals, and ultimately, parents and children with mental health needs in these Alabama communities.

“Back to School & the 3 R’s: Recognition, Recovery and Resiliency,” will provide a web-based training on August 25 for pediatricians, family physicians and mental health professionals in Alabama on the effects of trauma and stress for children who have experienced a natural disaster. These trained professionals will impart this information to parents and teachers in affected communities. They will learn how to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in children at home or in school and what steps to take to seek appropriate treatment.

“This program is important for many communities such as Tuscaloosa, Hackleburg and Phil Campbell, which were devastated, as it provides a resource for parents or families who are still struggling emotionally with the effects of tornadoes on their lives and their community,” said Karen Landers, MD, FAAP, AL-AAP Disaster Chair and Area Health Officer at ADPH. “Even after the immediate response by helpful agencies and individuals, many families and children can struggle to regain a sense of control over their lives in the months following a traumatic event.”

AL-AAP Mental Health Chair, Dr. Madeline Blancher added, “Especially as the school year begins, communities in the 41 affected counties need an opportunity for parents and families to learn about the effects of trauma on children and the kinds of support that will promote their recovery and resiliency.”

The project will provide $3,000 mini-grants to community teams to conduct a back-to-school weekly educational/support group for parents/caregivers to help their children deal with emotional and/or behavioral problems. Communities that apply for these mini-grants are encouraged to network with existing response efforts such as Project Rebound, an ADMH initiative that provides crisis counseling and resources. This collaboration is a good example of primary health and mental health providers working together to improve the overall health of children and families in the community.

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