May 24th, 2011
In a recent New York Times op ed, Professor Bessel A. van der Kolk, psychiatrist at Boston University School of Medicine, reflects on the strides we have made in the U.S. since the Vietnam era in naming and addressing post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers returning from war. At the same time, progress has also been made in addressing post-traumatic stress in children.
Professor van der Kolk states that, “For every soldier returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with symptoms of depression or PTSD, there are around 10 children in the United States who are traumatized by exposure to family violence, sexual abuse, neglect and assault, with consequences comparable to those of adult exposure to war-zone violence.”
However, President Obama’s 2012 budget proposes to reduce financing by 70 percent to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network created in 2001 in order to evaluate and develop treatments for traumatized children nationwide. The network’s budget is currently $40 million — about the cost of keeping 40 soldiers fighting in Afghanistan for one year. This network documents and evaluates the most effective treatments for these children in order to help them become functioning members of society. Without treatment, some of these children will instead to0 easily become the next generation of Americans filling up our prisons and death rows.
This short-sighted budgetary action is yet one more example of sacrificing a preventative program to save a few bucks, but at the same time, creating extraordinary costs down the road, both financial and human. And such cuts are not only happening on the federal level, but the state level as well. Effectively addressing such issues as post-traumatic stress in children will reduce violent crime rates as well as the cost of incarceration and the death penalty.
These children are living among us and are not going anywhere. We can address these issues now or later when more damage is done. What’s it going to be?