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The Trauma and Grief Center at Texas Children’s Hospital

Increasing Access to Trauma-informed Mental Health Care Among Texas Youth

Trauma and grief. These are words not automatically or generally associated with children — certainly not ones that we want associated with children. But the statistics tell a different story. Research indicates that untreated trauma and bereavement in children are associated with problematic long-term outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance use, post-traumatic stress syndrome, suicide risk, school drop-out and violent behavior.

Texas Children’s commitment to providing the very best medical care for the patients we serve includes not only addressing children’s physical needs, but also ensuring that their emotional and mental health needs are met as well. Texas Children’s Trauma and Grief (TAG) Center is an integral part of that commitment.

The TAG Center is one of the only health service agencies in Texas with significant child trauma and bereavement expertise — and the only National Child Traumatic Stress Network site in the country with this particular expertise. Under the direction of Julie Kaplow, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., the TAG Center has three primary aims:

  1. To provide evidence-based assessment and interventions for youth who have experienced traumas and/or losses
  2. To conduct research on adaptive and maladaptive responses to trauma and loss, as well as treatment effectiveness, and
  3. To provide training and professional education in trauma-and grief-informed assessment and interventions using best-practice teaching methods.

Also home to the Harvey Resiliency and Recovery Program (HRRP), the TAG Center quickly began expanding its scope in the community following the storm last August that brought devastation to so many homes and families. Direct clinical care happens at Texas Children’s Main Campus, and full-time, licensed and trauma-informed social workers have integrated mental health care into three Texas Children’s Pediatric (TCP) practices in underserved areas in the community. In addition, a bilingual social worker has been added to the team on one of the hospital’s mobile clinics that visits these areas.

The TAG Center team has also partnered with several school districts — including Houston, Spring Branch, Alief and Aldine — to train school-based clinicians in using trauma and grief component therapy for students whose histories of exposure to trauma, loss and severe adversity put them at high risk for mental health issues.

“We know that treatment for children affected by trauma and grief is most successful if clinicians can reach them where they are — in their schools and other places in the community,” Dr. Kaplow said. “The TAG Center is working hard to address the tremendous gaps in the system that currently exist for thousands of children in the Houston area. The reason the Center exists is to raise the standard of care and increase access to best-practice mental health care among traumatized children and adolescents and their families.”