Network formed to protect traumatized children

April 29, 2003

Blacksburg, Va., April 29, 2003 -- If, as happens in science-fiction movies, we could push a button to activate a shield between us and danger, there would be no need for the Terrorism and Disaster Branch (TDB) of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS). But since there are no such shields, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is forming a nationwide web to help protect children in times of trauma, disaster, or terrorism.

The NCTSN is designed to combine the expertise and resources of an extensive national network to develop and carry out a comprehensive national child mental-health disaster and terrorism program. Virginia Tech psychology professor Russell T. Jones has been named a member of the Terrorism and Disaster Branch. That's a fitting position for him because, when others hurt, Jones wants to help heal them.

The main goal of the group is to reach across the United States, "to foster a truly integrated, state-of-the-art readiness, response, and recovery program for our nation's children and families," according to Robert Pynoos of UCLA and John Fairbank of Duke University, co-directors of the NCCTS.

Since joining the group, Jones has coordinated several meetings with members of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for which he has done previous work, and the TDB. He and Linda Doll of the CDC are co-leaders of the research working group that will design short- and long-term research strategies to build an infrastructure and identify important topics for short-term research before, during, and after terrorism events as well as identify research gaps and build a research agenda for long-term projects. Doll is associate director of science for injury prevention at the CDC. Jones is also a member of the pre-planning working group charged with coordinating a federal mental-health response strategy, establishing health communications, and developing a collaborative research effort.

"I am continuing to apply my knowledge and clinical skills in the research domain to events of disaster and terrorism," Jones said. "It is my desire to apply my knowledge and experience to assist people who are hurting to cope with tragedy."

He has done so by providing information for the media to disseminate to the public after September 11 and other trauma-related events--information such as how to help children and their parents cope with and get over the trauma. His expertise has been sought by such foundations and agencies as the Casey Foundation, the American Red Cross, the International Society of Fire Fighters, the CDC, and the National Institutes for Mental Health.

Because of his work with the CDC, Jones has been asked to serve a second term as a member of the Advisory Committee for Injury Prevention and Control (ACIPC). He recently chaired the Science and Program Review Subcommittee meeting. Last year, he served as a member of a workshop for NIMH that identified key psychological, biological, and neurobiological predictor variables to be measured after trauma. He was involved in analyses and refinement of the procedures and helped develop plans for intervention strategies to prevent long-term pathological reactions to trauma.

The TDB will "comprehensively address the understanding of childhood traumatic stress due to disasters and terrorism and disseminate best practices for evaluation, treatment, and services," according to Betty Pfefferbaum, director of the TDB. The NCTSN "is in a unique position to provide tailored evaluation tools, treatment approaches that are culturally and ecologically sound, and services that respond to community needs in regard to specific types of disasters."

The members of the groups also have expertise to address the needs of different populations and different localities in the wake of a disaster. "The network will further add to national preparedness and response through the requirement of each site to build community partnerships and provide leadership and training within their local networks," Pfefferbaum said.

Jones said his colleagues and Virginia Tech have been instrumental in enabling him to contribute to these national efforts to assist people in coping with trauma. "Without the continued support and expertise of my colleagues and both undergraduate and graduate students, I would be unable to contribute to these outstanding organizations," Jones said.
-end-
Contact Dr. Russell Jones at 540-231-5934 or rtjones@vt.edu

Virginia Tech

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