U. of C. Medicine gets $9.1 million for trauma-centered care of children and families

Left to right: Ellen Hassenfeld Block with Brenda Battle and Dr. John Cunningham, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of Comer Hospital. (Contributed photo)

Staff writer

The University of Chicago Medical Center will have the Midwest’s first integrated program of clinical and community services for children and their families who have suffered trauma caused by gun, domestic or sexual violence, child abuse or exposure to community violence, thanks to a $9.1 million donation from the Ellen & Ronald Block Family Foundation and the Hassenfeld Family Foundation.

“We are excited to support this effort and are grateful to everyone from everywhere who has worked tirelessly to create this collaborative, for their ongoing contributions, and for their commitment to a long-term future that we too share, seeing that all children and families in our community are safe from violence, resilient, healthy, and can grow up and thrive, said Ellen Hassenfeld Block, who is also a trustee of the U. of C. Medical Center.

Trauma is increasingly seen as a public health problem, though immediate, consistent and comprehensive treatment can avert long-lasting effects on individuals’ and communities’ well-being. The Block Hassenfeld Casdin (BHC) Collaborative for Family Resilience (BHC) seeks to reach victims during and immediately after being hospitalized.

It will provide all-hours interventions in the Comer Hospital’s emergency room and for children whose loved ones are treated in the adult Trauma Center. It also will link children and their families to trauma-informed counseling services, group therapy, mentoring, psychotherapy and medication management programs.

“The holistic elements, they start when a person comes into the Trauma Center,” said Brenda Battle, vice president of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative. “It’s really having our Child Life Specialists…help children in the hospital setting continue their development, but also help them navigate through the experience of being in the hospital.”

“So, it starts when they enter the hospital and extends when they leave the hospital to ensure that whatever the social services that are needed to help a child and family recover are provided to them,” said Battle, who also is chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer. She specifically mentioned food, housing, post-traumatic stress treatment and behavioral health services.

Four child life specialists are intended to provide long-term care to the patients; Battle estimated that they will hire 18 additional employees, including a chaplain, social worker, psychiatrist and psychologist. Four violence recovery specialists will join the existing six on staff.

The investment comes near the one-year anniversary of the Trauma Center’s opening last May. The hospital treated 2,058 trauma patients from May 1, 2018, through the end of March — 276 of those patients were children. The Comer Children’s Hospital has been a designated pediatric trauma center since 1990.

“The public health crisis of intentional violence and its traumatic after-effects require innovative approaches that knit together the strengths and resources of institutions, individuals and community-based organizations alike,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Polonsky, U. of C. dean and executive vice president for medical affairs, in a statement. “We are most grateful for this generous gift and for the new opportunities offered by the BHC Collaborative to significantly expand trauma recovery programs and further strengthen the network of care and services on Chicago’s South Side.”

Battle said the U. of C. solicited the donation for the BHC Collaborative, which was developed with the input of the Medical Center’s Community Advisory Council of faith-based and community leaders. It was planned with the intention of serving as a national model.

“It creates a team of individuals who support kids and families that have experienced this particular public health issue, and that’s the difference between this model and the other national models,” Battle said. “It is a comprehensive model with all of the components to help a child and family recover after trauma.”