If we are truly going to end child abuse and neglect, we need to prevent it from happening. Project Harmony is known for our response, we are shaping treatment and we are poised to lead prevention.
Local studies report that the Omaha Metro’s mental health system is fragmented and difficult to access. Teachers, school counselors, and medical providers may identify children in need, but are unsure where to refer. Mental health providers operate independently with a variety of treatment modalities – many times not using evidence based models of practice. As a result, children and families are left to maneuver through the mental health system and many children do not receive appropriate, quality care in a timely manner.
The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES) report that children exposed to interpersonal violence and/or household dysfunction suffer devastating consequences, both short term and over a lifetime. Exposure to violence affects how children feel, how they act and how they learn. Children with adverse childhood experiences and whose trauma goes unaddressed are at a higher risk of developing behavioral problems, school failure, substance abuse, repeat victimization and violent criminal behavior.
In early 2014, the Sherwood Foundation and the Bill and Ruth Scott Foundation joined together to provide funds for an initiative that improves early access to mental health services for children and their families. Project Harmony was approached to be the lead agency and in January 2015 Project Harmony launched Connections – a program that links children, grades K-8, to mental health services.
Children with behavioral health symptoms – which may be indicative of toxic stress, trauma and exposure to violence – often can be identified early, and if timely, appropriate and effective services can be offered, a child can get back on track developmentally, function better at home and in the classroom, and be safer at home and in the community.
This project uses a 3-prong approach:
- Support mental health providers in learning evidence-based practices when and where children are able to access them.
- Reduce barriers families face in accessing mental health services - high deductibles, transportation, child care, co-pays, etc.
- Establish networks with key referral sources – schools and medical clinics – so they know who to call and when to call.