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Cedars-Sinai helps 28 LA Unified schools with trauma programs

Mike Szymanski | August 4, 2015

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Cedars SinaiAs the school year kicks off this month, 28 LAUSD schools will get free psychological services on site, thanks to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“Unfortunately, violence and trauma is a regular thing in the lives of children in some parts of Los Angeles, and teachers are just not trained to handle that — they should be teaching,” Suzanne Silverstein, founding director of the Psychological Trauma Center at Cedars-Sinai, told LA School Report. “State funding for school-based counseling services has nearly been eliminated, so we have come in to help.”

Actually, Silverstein has been at the forefront of helping LAUSD schools through the Cedars-Sinai Share and Care program for 35 years.

Now, with a rising demand for psychological services, so programs will be available in 20 elementary schools, six middle schools and two high schools.

“The schools are mostly in low income neighborhoods, but not all of them,” said Silverstein. “We deal with parents and students on issues such as anger management, bullying, divorce, incarcerated parents, social skills and much more.”

From Tarzana Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley to Markham Middle School in Watts, from New Los Angeles Charter School on the Westside to Mark Twain Middle School in Venice, the programs cross the entire spectrum of Los Angeles.

“Right now, the issues with foster kids and children with incarcerated parents have skyrocketed, and we are dealing with that,” Silverstein said.

The counselors do art therapy with students, help with disruptive behavior and also come in when there’s a time of crisis. At times, counselors have diffused tensions between principals and parents.

“We went in to Topanga Elementary School for a while after the Northridge earthquake in 1994,” Silverstein said. Counselors have gone into schools where children have died from gang violence, or parents have been shot.

Dahlia Heights Elementary School in Eagle Rock was nominated as a California Distinguished School for 2012, and it credits Share and Care with helping to close the achievement gap for its socioeconomic-disadvantaged students, Silverstein said.

The Cedars-Sinai’s Share and Care program is free to LAUSD.

Silverstein also began this summer developing a program to help retain new teachers who suffer quick burnout the first two years of teaching because of stress.

“Teachers are more overloaded and stressed these days, that is true,” she said. “And in addition some of the older teachers are suffering burnout.”

In any case, Silverstein added, her group is ready to offer help in schools, when the need arises.

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