By Eden Laikin
Childhood trauma – identifying and treating it, and finding pathways to healthier children – is the topic of Nassau County’s co-occurring conference this year, to be kicked off by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano on Dec. 6 at Hofstra.
After multiple school shootings nationwide, and the profound effects of Superstorm Sandy across the Island, Nassau County’s Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency & Developmental Disabilities Services will seek to provide Long Island professionals with information on healthy responses to children who witness or experience trauma. Emphasis will be on practical strategies that can be used in schools or out in the community settings. For example, one of the keynote speakers will focus on the mental health response for the children who survived the Avianca plane crash in Cove Neck in 1990. That response created a roadmap on which future mental health interventions following disasters were developed.
The conference will be provided in collaboration with the Mental Health Association of Nassau County and Hofstra and will take place at the University’s Mack Student Center from 9am to 4pm. County Executive Mangano will make welcoming remarks at 9am.
Entitled “Pathways to Healthier Children: Identifying & Treating Childhood Trauma,” the conference will strive to increase awareness of how trauma affects cognition and behavior, and provide guidance on therapeutic interventions that can be used when working with children, adolescents and their families.
Experts have found that trauma in childhood can affect children cognitively, behaviorally, and physically – and can lead to an increased likelihood of substance abuse, mental illness, and other negative impacts.
The challenge of integrating care for mental health, chemical dependency and physical health care is the mission of the Office’s recently launched Behavioral Health Awareness Campaign.
Dr. James R. Dolan, Jr., Nassau’s Director of Community Services, will present an award at the conference to recognize an individual that delivers outstanding “integrated care” to children.
The first keynote will speak on “The new normal of the highly stressed child.” Breakout sessions will follow, on topics such as: treatment for children with PTSD; how to recognize, prevent and respond to child abuse and sexual assault; and solutions for the treatment-resistant client.
“Too often, professionals in mental health, law enforcement and education are faced with becoming “first responders” for traumatized youngsters,” Mangano said. “Therefore, it is crucial for these professionals to be aware of research-supported treatments for childhood trauma.” And he urged all professionals working in related fields to attend the conference. “Since this year’s focus is on childhood trauma, please consider that although you may not work directly with children, your adult clients were children themselves and may be parents of children who have experienced trauma.”
Attendees of the Dec. 6 conference will also hear a first-person account from a resident who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as an undergraduate at Harvard University. The Uniondale native will tell of his journey from mental illness to wellness, and the advocacy work he is doing in schools about learning to live with mental illness.
To register for the conference, call (516) 463-5750. A $36 registration fee – payable to Hofstra University – includes continental breakfast, lunch, and 6 OASAS credits.