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Program aims to partner Children’s Home & Aid with the Harlem School District for trauma-informed counseling

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Machesney Park (WREX) — When a child struggles in school experts believe many times a bigger issue could be creating a roadblock to that student's success.

"I can look back on my career and know there were times when trauma was a large part of why we were seeing some of the symptoms or behaviors we were seeing but we didn't recognize it," says Children's Home & Aid Northern Region Clinical Director Lori Poppen.

Which is where the Early Prevention in the Community Program, or EPIC Program, hopes to help. It's funded by Winnebago County's one-half cent sales tax and was allocated by the county's community mental health board. It will hire three licensed therapists and an intake coordinator from Children's Home & Aid to provide trauma-informed counseling at the Harlem School District.

"Whenever we know there's trauma or we approach everyone through a trauma lens, we can put things in place to understand the cause of the behavior to build coping skills and resiliency," says Poppen.

EPIC will offer things like individual and family therapy as well as mental health case management. Referrals and any information shared between the district and Children's Home & Aid will be kept confidential, and guardians will be required to engage in the program. Children's Home & Aid says this trauma may be exuded through a wide range of symptoms. Things like inattention, hyperactivity, aggression, or depression. If it's left unaddressed, the consequences could be felt by our entire community.

"We're really about how to reduce violence in our community," says Poppen. "If we are able to identify and help people heal from trauma we will have a lot less violence a lot less traumatic experiences for people."

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13 WREX Newsroom

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