Improving Behavioral Health

500 students do not graduate from high school in Dane County every year. We know from research that disconnection in school usually begins in middle school. This is when students experience the greatest rate of anger, anxiety, and depression.

National research shows that 1 in 4 youth will experience a traumatic event by their 16th birthday. As early as 6th grade, children who have witnessed or experienced violence or trauma can be identified as “at risk.” If these children exhibit symptoms of psychological trauma but are not identified and treated by the time they get to 9th grade, there is much less chance that they can be successfully helped. They are more likely to drop out of school, get in trouble with the law, drink alcohol, abuse drugs and become pregnant.

The Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools program (CBITS) provides screening, early intervention and treatment for 6th graders who are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Students with clinically-significant levels of exposure to violence/trauma, symptoms of PTSD and depression benefit greatly by participating in CBITS groups where they learn skills that help them work through the trauma and manage its effects on their lives. In 2006 addressing trauma through this evidence-based program became the primary behavioral health strategy of Achievement Connections.

CBITS groups are made up of 4-8 students. Sessions are held at school once a week for 10 weeks. They are co-facilitated by a school counselor/social worker/psychologist and a trained mental health therapist from a community agency. The therapist provides 2-3 individual sessions with each CBITS participant to help them face and come to terms with the event(s) that triggered the trauma (“exposure therapy”). Teaching and consultation is also provided to teachers and parents to help them understand how trauma may underlie behaviors they see in their student/child, and how they can respond appropriately.

If you’d like to support CBITS and other initiatives that change lives in our community, contact the United Way Volunteer Center or click here to contribute to our campaign.