Meetings gauge post-Harvey trauma in kids

Jayden Oliver, 15, left, rests while another displaced child runs past as they shelter in the Gallery Furniture store Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Richmond, Texas. Oliver's family of seven evacuated their Richmond home Monday in anticipation of the Brazos River flooding their neighborhood as a result of Hurricane Harvey. The furniture store opened as a shelter housing as many as 350 people in an area being constructed as a museum of American industry. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Houston mental health and education leaders to announce “Community Conversations: Harvey, Trauma and Helping Our Kids Cope,”a series of neighborhood meetings for parents, students, community members, educators and clinicians to discuss gaps in mental health services for children so local advocates can work together to create community-based solutions.

A collaboration among UNICEF USA, the Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health America of Greater Houston and the Mayor’s Office of Education, the meetings will be held in each City Council district in coming months.

Trauma typically peaks 18 months after a natural disaster and can last for two to five years. Turner said that the city heard from teachers and school-based mental health professionals that trauma is impeding success in the classroom for many students and that more needs to be done to address it.

“During the past year I’ve continually emphasized the importance of helping the city become more resilient,” Turner said. “Helping children recover from the trauma and stress of Hurricane Harvey is an important element of this effort.

“Since many of these children have experienced various types of trauma even before the storm, what we learn from these community conversations will help us build back from Harvey but also build forward to ensure we have healthy minds in our classrooms,” he said.

Janet Pozmantier, director of the Center for School Behavioral Health, said research has shown that more than two-thirds of children report at least one traumatic event by age 16.

“Because of Harvey, many local youth now have had multiple childhood traumatic events,” she said. “It’s crucial that we take the time now to connect with important stakeholders in the community to learn about specific gaps in mental health services to effectively advocate for and develop beneficial resources.”

Pozmantier added that during the meetings, experts will discuss signs and symptoms of trauma. Their greatest interest is in hearing first-hand from the public about the social and emotional challenges that are affecting children and any difficulty they are having finding resources to address those challenges. Meetings will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. on the following dates:

·  Oct.  2 – District C: West-End Multi-Service Center, 170 Heights

·  Oct.  3 – District J: Southwest Multi-Service Center, 6400 High Star

·  Oct.  9 – District F: Alief Community Center, 11903 Bellaire

·  Oct.  11 – District B: Kashmere Multi-Service Center, 4802 Lockwood

·  Oct.  17 – District G: HCC Alief Hayes Campus, 2811 Hayes

·  Oct.  18 – District H: HCC Northline Campus, 8001 Fulton

·  Oct.  23 – District A: Region 4 Education Center, 7145 W. Tidwell

·  Nov. 1 – District E: Kingwood Community Center, 4102 Rustic Woods

·  Nov. 6 – District K: Stimley-Blue Ridge Library, 7007 W. Fuqua

To RSVP visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-conversations-harvey-trauma-and-helping-our-kids-cope-tickets-49864365660