For children who have gone through trauma and abuse, quick access to mental health services can make a difference between healing from traumatic the experience and dealing with long-term consequences for their health.
Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority granted $45,000 to Fairbanks’ child advocacy center earlier this year to expand services to children who went through sexual or physical abuse, were exposed to drugs or witnessed a crime.
“The quicker a kid gets services for behavioral health after they’ve experienced trauma, the less lifelong impact,” said Leigh Bolin, executive director at the Resource Center for Parents & Children.
The funds will go to renovate the waiting area at the center, buy new furniture and provide therapists with educational materials and supplies, but most importantly, the grant will help hire a new clinician in July to support Stevie’s Place, a child advocacy center at RCPC.
“For Stevie’s place, the Mental Health Trust grant allowed us to have an in-house therapist we didn’t have before,” said Desiree Macz, the manager of Stevie’s Place. “It really increased our ability to help kids in the moment, so we have a counselor available if there’s a crisis, and they need to help a child while they’re here.”
For families concerned about their safety, Stevie’s Place serves as a safe place where law enforcement and the Office of Children’s Services can investigate crimes against children. Families can also get connected to resources they need, from assistance in court to mental health services to advocacy.
Serving between 450 to 500 kids a year, Stevie’s Place is the second largest child advocacy center in the state after Anchorage, Bolin said. Before, the center would connect children to a clinician somewhere else or have them go to the ER, but with an in-house clinician starting July, children can get help faster and in the environment they know and trust.
“When kids come back (to Stevie’s place), they already know this place and think, ‘This is a place to go for help; there’s nice people there,’” Bolin said.
In the long run, ready access to early intervention and therapeutic services can serve as a preventative measure for the child needing higher levels of services including institutionalization, said Allison Biastock, chief communications officer at the Alaska Mental Health Trust.
To support children, Stevie’s Place partners with Fairbanks Memorial Hospital to bring in forensic nurses and works closely with Tanana Chiefs Conference for any families who have an advocate through the tribe.
“We really work with all the different people that are in a kid’s life just to make sure that they get everything they need in a one-stop shop," Bolin said. "That way they are not having to repeat their story a million times or have to go to different places; they just get everything they need right here.”
Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.