story by Homma Rafi
Director of Communications, School of Public Health
ATLANTA—School of Public Health researchers at Georgia State University have been awarded a $3 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to launch the first national Treatment and Service Adaptation center in the State of Georgia. The new center will address the mental health needs of trafficked youth.
The award from SAMHSA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative will establish the National Center on Child Trafficking (NCCT) in the Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development at Georgia State. Dr. Shannon Self Brown, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences, is the principal investigator of the five-year project.
Youth who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, also known as CSEC/T, have very high rates of trauma exposure, such as sexual abuse, family trauma and physical violence by traffickers. The average age of victims who enter human trafficking, including CSEC/T and labor servitude, is 12 to 14 years old. The impact of these experiences can lead to high rates of depression, anxiety and substance use in this population.
Dr. Self-Brown has studied the mental health needs of CSEC/T youth over the last nine years, in partnership with Dr. Kelly Kinnish at the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. Their work has found that CSEC/T occurs to youth of all ages, genders and races. However, youth of color and LGBTQ youth are significantly over-represented and males are under-identified. Results of research led by Dr. Self-Brown published in the journal Behavioral Medicine found 37.5 percent of CSEC/T youth who are referred for mental health counseling meet full criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Given the significant rates of mental health symptomatology and functional impairment that youth who have experienced CSEC/T may experience, it is imperative to disseminate evidence-based trauma treatments that can be easily accessed,” said Dr. Self-Brown. “High-quality and accessible mental health services are incredibly important for ensuring that youth have every opportunity to recover from the cumulative trauma they have experienced and to support them on a path to resiliency.”
The NCCT will bring together a national network of experts in trauma, trafficking and implementation science to develop and disseminate effective practices to improve outcomes for CSEC/T youth and their families. These include the training of mental health therapists and substance abuse professionals on evidenced-based treatments to address these issues and improve trauma and trafficking awareness.
“In addition to training mental health therapists in evidence-based practices,” Dr. Self-Brown said, “our project goals include increasing CSEC/T awareness and multi-disciplinary collaborative response to CSEC/T across youth services systems, as well as training and disseminating care practices to address secondary traumatic stress among the workforce who serves youth with significant experiences of cumulative trauma.”
The center will open at the end of September. For more information, contact Dr. Self-Brown at [email protected].
Chair and Professor, Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences
Co-Director, National SafeCare Training and Research Center
School of Public Health
Dr. Shannon Self-Brown’s research focuses on child maltreatment prevention, behavioral parenting intervention, youth trauma intervention, and implementation science. Her research has been funded by NIH, NCTSN, CDC, PCORI, and several foundations. Dr. Self-Brown has more than 70 peer-reviewed publications focusing on the impact of youth violence, trauma, and disaster exposure on youth mental health, as well as the implementation of evidence-based behavioral parenting programs and mental health practices for traumatized youth.