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Youth with PTSD get relief from proven treatment

Study can serve as a ‘blueprint’ for other cities with high trauma rates

Only 31% of efforts to integrate proven treatments into health care systems are successful, recent data has found.

A team of clinic administrators, clinicians, policymakers and scientists who led a newly published 10-year study across Philadelphia behavioral health centers beat those odds by successfully implementing an evidence-based form of cognitive behavioral therapy for young people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Many young Philadelphians live below the poverty line and/or are Medicaid-insured. They’re often exposed to significant interpersonal violence (child sexual, physical and emotional abuse) and community violence, are more likely to develop PTSD from these experiences and less likely to recover from PTSD compared to socioeconomically advantaged youth.

The team of scientists — originally at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) but now at Northwestern University and Stony Brook University — began working with Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services in 2012 to incorporate the use of trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy, an evidence-based treatment for young people with PTSD, across the city’s behavioral health system.

The study was successful in two ways: First, patients who received the trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy saw their PTSD symptoms decline an average of 30% from baseline to termination. But the overarching success of the study was in how well the city was able to implement and sustain the therapy’s adoption and reach over 10 years.

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