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In the News, Land grant mission in action, improving everyday lives

WSU Spokane. Land grant mission in action, improving everyday lives


Children in two Seattle Public Schools elementary schools will soon have a better chance at academic success, thanks to a collaborative effort to expand a successful school-based trauma intervention program that has been working successfully in Spokane. Read about the collaborative work between WSU Extension, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and multiple state-wide public entities dedicated to improving health and the education of children.

Media Release: WSU Spokane and Public Health – Seattle & King County

Children in two Seattle Public Schools elementary schools will soon have a better chance at academic success, thanks to a collaborative effort to expand a successful school-based trauma intervention program.

Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of Eastern Washington, a unit of WSU Extension, were recently awarded a three-year $651,345 grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a project to replicate and enhance an evidence-based model used in Spokane schools. The project will be implemented in partnership with Seattle Public Schools—specifically Beacon Hill International School and Olympic Hills Elementary School—the City of Seattle Office for Education, and Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.

The goal of the project is to maximize the potential for school success for all children by addressing the needs of children who have experienced multiple traumatic events, or complex trauma. Such events may include homelessness; parents’ divorce or separation; being exposed to or witnessing domestic violence; or substance abuse by a family member.

“With about a quarter to a third of U.S. children affected, complex trauma is truly a national public health crisis,” said Christopher Blodgett, director of AHEC and the lead investigator for WSU. “It has been shown to directly compromise the success of schools, particularly those in high poverty areas. If schools are to improve academic outcomes, addressing complex trauma should be central to their educational mission.”

As part of this project, the partners will implement a model developed by Blodgett and his team that improves school practices and trains teachers and other school staff to help mitigate the effects of trauma. They will also explore how the model might enhance existing practice for school-based health clinics.

The project will be conducted as an integrated part of the established work plans of Seattle’s Families and Education Levy, which supports programs and initiatives that help Seattle’s children be safe, healthy, and ready to learn. Beacon Hill International School has a partnership with Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, which provides school-based health care funded by levy dollars.

“This grant will help children who have experienced trauma to get the emotional support they need and learn coping skills to succeed in school and life,” said City of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

“Every young person deserves the chance to reach his or her full potential,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “With the training provided by this grant, these schools can help vulnerable children overcome the traumas that stand in the way of success.”

“Many adult health problems— including chronic diseases, depression, suicide, being violent and being a victim of violence—can be traced to childhood trauma. If we can reduce the impacts of childhood trauma, we can improve not only success in school, but also lifelong health,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

The King County project builds on earlier work undertaken by Blodgett and his team. In 2010, AHEC received grants from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Gates Foundation to integrate trauma response and social emotional learning into Spokane-based early learning programs and eastern Washington elementary schools, respectively. Last year, a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided funding to implement the program in more than 40 schools and small districts across Washington state.

“We want to thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding this important work,” said Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent of operations for Seattle Public Schools. “We recognize that many students struggle with social, emotional and behavioral issues that make it difficult for them to achieve academically. This project helps further our mission to support the academic success of our students, and builds on our ongoing partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County.”

About Public Health – Seattle & King County

Public Health – Seattle & King County works for safer and healthier communities for over two million residents and visitors of King County everyday by protecting against health threats, promoting better health and helping people get access to accessible, quality health care. Services include programs in prevention, environmental health, personal health, emergency medical services (EMS), jail health, public health emergency preparedness, and community health assessment.

About AHEC

A part of WSU Extension, the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of Eastern Washington works with university and community allies to promote health and wellness for underserved and at-risk populations through research, education, and community development. Based at WSU Spokane, it belongs to a network of AHEC organizations throughout the United States that focuses on health professions education and training, as well as the recruitment and retention of health care providers. Research conducted at the Eastern Washington AHEC has focused primarily on fostering long-term success in early learning and K-12 education and evaluating mental and behavioral programs.

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