MCG grant helps children with behavioral problems

At times, Jennifer Reyes’ 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, would scream so long and so loud that she would cause her own nose to bleed.

 

“She would rage,” Reyes said. “She was aggressive.”

Reyes did not know how to manage her or where to turn until she found help for her child through a special grant at Medical College of Georgia Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Augusta University. Retired music therapist Emily S. Baumann helped fund the grant when she was looking to donate funds to help children.

“I thought, well, I’d like to do something and I was very aware of troubled teens in the Augusta area and nationally,” said the retired educator, who taught at Montclair State and Texas Woman’s universities. “Nationally, there are a lot of suicides and there is just struggling (among families). Where do they go?”

It can be very difficult for parents to find help for their children because there is a shortage of child psychiatrists both nationally and locally, said Dr. Sandra Sexson, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at MCG.

“Certainly in the CSRA there is just limited availability,” she said.

But beginning at the first of the year, Reyes was able to get her daughter into counseling and therapy sessions that included play therapy, where her daughter plays in a structured environment and therapists carefully observe her to help ascertain and help her cope with issues she might not be able to otherwise express, Reyes said. The grant also allows the department’s trainees to participate in the sessions and learn more about child therapy, Sexson said.

“It helps the child but it also helps future children because we are increasing the capacity of the trainee to actually provide this kind of service,” she said.

“It has a double focus: treatment for clients and training for professionals,” she said.

Since the grant was started in March 2016, it has provided 824 therapy sessions for children whose families otherwise would not have been able to get it. The grant is specifically for lower-income families. That was also important to Baumann.

“Every level of people need it but particularly for those low-income families that don’t have insurance,” she said.

Medicaid, for instance, would not have covered all of the services that Amelia was getting, Reyes said. And as a parent, she has also received training to help her manage her daughter’s behavior.

“They also offered me the resources that I needed to understand what is happening and understand how to deal with it,” Reyes said.

Since Amelia began her therapy “she has made almost a complete turnaround,” Reyes said. “She is much more well-adjusted. She has gained coping skills that are invaluable and will last her throughout her life. As have I, as a parent so I am just so grateful that this program exists.”

She has a message for Baumann.

“I just want make sure that she understands what an impact she is making on the families in her community,” Reyes said.

And she has a message for parents who might be searching for this kind of therapy for their own children.

“There is help,” Reyes said. “There is hope.”

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