HYDE PARK — Comer Children’s Hospital on Monday received $2 million in federal funding to provide mental health care for children on the South and West sides affected by violence.
The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is funding the University of Chicago’s Recovery and Empowerment After Community Trauma, or REACT, program for the next five years.
The grant allows the hospital to put a psychiatrist and psychologist in the emergency room and intensive care unit to screen every child that comes through for symptoms of trauma.
“Chicago’s struggles with gun violence mean the day-to-day lives of so many of our children are shaped by community violence,” said Bradley Stolbach, the pediatric trauma psychologist at Comer Children's who will direct the program. “That has major ripple effects, not just for those who’ve been injured, but for kids who witness violence, who know people who’ve been killed or hurt, or who have to walk to school on streets where shootings take place.
He said children every child will be screened because even those without a physical injury can end up with chronic stress from worrying about something as basic as their own safety.
In 2015, more than a quarter of the patients that came through the hospital’s pediatric trauma center had suffered a violent injury like a shooting or stabbing, five times higher than the national average, according to the hospital.
“Unfortunately, our level I pediatric trauma center has cared for too many children who have been exposed to violence this summer,” said Dr. John Cunningham, chairman of the department of pediatrics at the university. “This is a significant ray of hope for some of the most disadvantaged children and families in our community.”
The funding will also help provide counseling and other services both at the hospital and with community partners.
The program will begin this fall and is expected to screen 1,300 patients and their families.
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