MIC Stories: New England MHTTC
Featuring the New England MHTTC: Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative
MIC Stories (MHTTCs Implementing Change) feature technical assistance projects that had a significant impact on practice.
Two-thirds of children, nationally, reported at least one traumatic event by age 16 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), with significant numbers of children in New England states experiencing adverse childhood experiences (Sacks and Murphy, 2018). To strengthen school mental health supports that address the needs of children who have experienced/are at risk of experiencing significant trauma, the New England MHTTC developed the Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative (C-TLC).
Through the C-TLC, our goal is to provide public and private Pre-K-12 schools in New England access to evidence-based mental health resources to enhance their awareness of childhood trauma and related neurobiological implications. Our training and technical assistance focuses on the benefits of mindfulness practices for youth, as well as ways to strengthen, value, and increase social emotional competence, accelerate learning, and develop a sense of well-being for students, teachers, and the wider school community. Our training and technical assistance offerings are disseminated to New England schools as a menu of evidence-based, compassionate school practices. Schools can choose the collection of practices and training resources that are most needed for their school/district community's growth towards becoming a trauma-skilled school. We determine the needs of educators in the New England region by conducting a yearly needs assessment about our C-TLC Fellows and gathering satisfaction about that year's activities, as well as suggested activities and topics for the following year.
The C-TLC began in December 2018 and includes 24 C-TLC Fellows, including school administrators, teachers, psychologists, and social workers who were selected for intensive training and technical assistance to increase local capacity and expertise to strengthen school-based mental health programs and initiatives. Specifically, C-TLC Fellows receive training and mentorship on implementing evidence-based, compassionate school practices to cultivate trauma-responsive school communities that buffer against and address trauma. Since program inception, the C-TLC has provided technical assistance and support to more than 150 districts, schools, agencies and nonprofits in New England and disseminated school mental health resources to over 8,000 school and mental health professionals.
What We Did
In Year 1, we focused on community-building and knowledge dissemination, including the development of monthly webinars and resources on school-based mental health; access to a validated social emotional learning assessment tool, the School Compassionate Culture Analytical Tool for Educators (S-CCATE), designed to help guide teams of educators and whole school communities to vision, plan, implement, and monitor progress toward compassionate school mental health practices; and an introduction to the wealth of resources available via the broader MHTTC Network.
In Year 2, our C-TLC Fellows were prepared to serve as program ambassadors, helping school and district level staff envision, plan, and monitor compassionate practices. Our Year 2 implementation strategies supported enhanced training and technical assistance activities and increased usage of our S-CCATE assessment tool. The C-TLC provided follow-up training and technical assistance to more than 80 schools and 500+ educators who completed the S-CCATE assessment. We also expanded the number of C-TLC Fellows in Year Two to improve the diversity of our Fellows in terms of geographic location, race, gender, and job function. We were able to elevate the speaking and public engagement efforts of our Fellows such that they could assist in strategic planning and communications within their state around ways to alleviate the impact of trauma and help schools/districts understand their role in building supportive classrooms to help most at-risk children. This was particularly crucial when the role and functions of school communities changed in response to COVID-19 pandemic closures.
With an enhanced platform in Year 3, and to address the ongoing needs of school staff during the pandemic, our C-TLC Fellowship program expanded to include mentorship activities, affinity groups, and ongoing virtual training and technical assistance. These efforts supported our community-building strategies and the need to offer all trainings and events virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic and our inability to travel and meet with school leaders in-person. The pandemic also required a more specific focus on the overall physical and mental health, well-being, and safety of students, families, and school staff. Therefore, our Year 3 Fellowship implementation activities centered around:
- Visioning for the future of education and mental health support services for children and youth
- Alleviating trauma and addressing racial disparities and injustice
- Building leadership capacity to further a compassionate response to mental health concerns
- Fostering self-care and community care, and
- Implementing Heart Centered Learning® with a Compassionate School Mental Health Model (CSMH), which addresses prevention, implementing supports for children, building student resiliency, and developing protective factors.
In addition, our Year 3 implementation strategies included a cross-collaboration convening with SAMHSA's Region 1 Office, the Health Resources and Services Administration's Office of Regional Operations in Region 1, our C-TLC, and our Healthcare Workers and Educators Addressing and Reducing Trauma (HEART) Collective. This effort enhances collaborations between schools and community health centers, mental and behavioral health agencies, and/or community-based organizations to support youth's positive mental health and well-being in a school-based setting. As part of the HEART Collective, we work with teams to help schools and community health providers design and refine their comprehensive, inclusive school mental health systems or choose from a menu of options to promote holistic mental health for the entire school community.
New England is a diverse region in geography, urbanization, race, values, etc. Many of the New England states operate schools with local control governance. Therefore, it can be challenging to cohesively train state educational systems or ensure that neighboring districts prioritize social emotional learning, mental health, and trauma-skilled practices in an equitable fashion. We have attempted to overcome this barrier by offering our training and policy, program, and policy recommendations as a menu of options, from which schools and districts can choose those that best meet their unique needs.
We conduct regular surveys of our C-TLC Fellows to determine their involvement, level of learning, and satisfaction with the program. We also work with Fellows, individually, on the action plans they develop to support the implementation of compassionate school mental health practices at their home schools and any needed improvements to the C-TLC initiative. Additionally, our training and technical assistance activities are GPRA-evaluated by participants. We release quarterly feedback opportunities to the more than 8,000 educators and mental health professionals who are a part of our school mental health database of constituents.
Key outcomes from our Year 3 Survey include:
- Fellows reporting increased knowledge on many topics, including COVID-19 trauma (95%); trauma, brain development, and neuroplasticity (90%); and compassionate discipline (90%)
- 100% of C-TLC Fellows agreed that they increased their knowledge about implementing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in classrooms; compassionate school mental health; educational leadership; and collaborations between schools and community partners.
Review additional results of the C-TLC's 2020-2021 Year 3 Survey of Fellows here.
Our assessment of the C-TLC Fellows' capacity development confirms that they are gaining expertise and appreciate opportunities to learn and problem solve together online and through in-person leadership meetings. We are incredibly grateful to be learning alongside these educators who inspire their school communities and us to continue together on this challenging journey to reduce childhood trauma and increase community wellness with hope and tenacity. Some of the responses we've received from school staff are below.
The C-TLC has framed its Year 4 activities under "The Year of Connection." Our Year 4 implementation strategies support our efforts to connect educators and behavioral health professionals to the New England and national MHTTC resources developed in Years 1-3. Our current resource and product development centers around responding to the school mental health needs identified through our needs assessment activities. Our goals in Year 4 are to amplify local capacity and create connected and equitable communities that alleviate the effects of trauma, amplify protective factors, and increase the availability of educated and nurturing adults and teachers within schools who can meet the mental health needs of students. Our Year 4 plans also include the release of a 12-hour, self-directed online learning course on the HealtheKnowledge platform, Cultivating Compassionate School Communities that Respond to Trauma Effectively, which guides educators and community members through the steps to becoming trauma-skilled.
We look forward to advocating for more effective collaborations among youth-serving systems —especially education and mental health — to ensure trauma-skilled, recovery-oriented, person-centered, equitable, effective, and compassionate practices.
Over three years, we have supported capacity building at the local level through shared knowledge, expertise, and data. These are critical steps to efficient and effective implementation. The benefits of cross-sector collaboration and our approach to education, mentorship, collaborative learning, and data sharing amplify stewardship, provide complementary expertise, and minimize duplication, which underscores the value of understanding the culture and competing priorities of local communities on the field as a whole. For more information about the New England MHTTC C-TLC and to access all of our resources, please visit our C-TLC webpage here.
The New England MHTTC, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is housed in the Program for Recovery & Community Health (PRCH) at Yale University. The core mission of the New England MHTTC is to use evidence-based means to disseminate evidence-based mental health practices across the region. The region consists of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Sacks and Murphy (2018). The prevalence of adverse childhood experiences, nationally, by state, and by race or ethnicity. Child Trends. https://www.childtrends.org/publications/prevalence-adverse-childhood-experiences-nationally-state-raceethnicity