ATLANTA – The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is partnering with Georgia State University after receiving a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program that will work to aid the mental health of youth victimized by commercial sexual exploitation.
Kelly Kinnish, clinical director of the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, and Shannon Self-Brown, associate professor at Georgia State, will use the grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to establish Project InterCSECT to train 40 therapists as well as provide treatment services for 150 youth.
The project will use evidence-based mental health practices to treat exploited youth, and Georgia State will work to extensively evaluate the program in order to better treat the mental health needs of a vulnerable population.
Evidence-based practices refer to those actions that have been proven through research to effectively treat a particular problem or issue.
A recent report by the Governor’s Office for Children and Families estimated that 300 to 500 young people are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the state each month.
Self-Brown noted that the state has a great infrastructure to help identify victims in many aspects, providing them with better living conditions and medical care, but addressing mental health needs of these youth is a missing “piece of the puzzle.”
“We want to work with child advocacy centers throughout the state and offer strong training and evidence-based practices to serve these youth,” she said.
Research on the topic of the mental health needs of commercially sexually exploited youth is slim, Self-Brown added.
“It’s very much a hot topic around the U.S., and we’re asking how are the mental health needs different with this population as opposed to other youth,” she said. “We really hope to learn whether current evidence-based practices already available for similar types of trauma work effectively, or whether adaptations are needed. Based on our findings, we will be able to disseminate the effective practices to practitioners around the country who are serving youth who have been victims of the sex trade.”
Oct. 23, 2012