UAMS Researcher Awarded $1.6 Million Grant to Train Therapists to Treat Young Trauma Victims

By Nate Hinkel

The four-year grant will fund the Arkansas Network for Early Stress and Trauma (NEST), a collaborative effort of UAMS, Mid-South Health Systems in Jonesboro and Ozark Guidance Center in Springdale.

NEST will provide individualized treatment for children under 5 who have been exposed to various forms of trauma as well as training to at least 70 mental health professionals on methods of caring for young patients using evidence-based practices.

Benjamin Sigel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine is principal investigator for the grant awarded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

An estimated 7,000 children in Arkansas under the age of 5 are exposed to traumatic stress every year. The traumatic events can range from sexual or physical abuse to natural disasters and domestic violence. These events can cause severe problems with the social, behavioral and psychological growth of a young child.

“There’s only a handful of people around the state who are equipped to treat children under 5 who have experienced trauma using evidenced-based practices, not enough to really make an impact,” said Sigel. “We will do our best to get these kids better care and more effective services.”

The grant will also go toward producing training materials and other resources that can be used by medical, educational and legal personnel to help them recognize the symptoms of childhood traumatic stress.

The year-long training will include personal and group sessions for mental health professionals, including consultation calls via telephone or video. A group of national experts in childhood development will work with the NEST team to improve the care of the state’s youngest trauma victims.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or