LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 1, 2017) – Beginning in 1999, a series of research and clinical projects were funded at the University of Kentucky to understand child maltreatment and improve on the care these victims receive. Eight years later, the UK Board of Trustees voted to establish a center that would encourage scientists and clinicians to conduct clinical research and provide evidence-based services to children and families who have been exposed to a wide range of traumatic events. The UK Center on Trauma and Children (CTAC) has been a leader in studying and treating children who have experienced trauma. Ginny Sprang, professor of Psychiatry, is a co-founder of CTAC, and has led these efforts for almost two decades as executive director.
In recognition of the work she has done at CTAC, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has appointed Sprang as a member of its steering committee for the next two years. Established by Congress in 2000 the NCTSN includes 79 centers of excellence that work to implement policy, improve clinical care and develop products. Ten years ago, UK CTAC was awarded membership in the network through federal funding it received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“Raising the standard of care is very much in line with the goals of the center, and the UK College of Medicine,” said Sprang. This dedication to improving clinical services to children experiencing trauma is why she was invited to the NCTSN steering committee, which will only strengthen CTAC’s role as a national leader on child traumatic stress.
Two living laboratories in the center enable clinicians and researchers to test and adopt clinical strategies for reducing the harm associated with violence exposure. The assessment lab includes families referred through the court system or child protective services (CPS). The federally funded treatment lab, brings the latest innovations in child trauma treatment to Kentucky, and provides a venue for investigating the harms associated with specific types of traumatic experiences.
Researching the impact of traumatic events on children isn’t the only kind of research currently being conducted at CTAC. The Center runs a Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Practice Lab. STS, is caused by frequent indirect exposure to traumatic material and can lead to the manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in trauma providers. The STS Practice Lab is a place where CTAC can develop and test new tools and interventions to address STS. “Raising the standard of care for traumatized children mandates that the child-serving workforce be protected as well,” Sprang said.
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