$100K grant to support art therapy for youths impacted by family substance use


Staff Writer

Published: 07-17-2023 12:06 PM

With funding from a $100,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant, a new after-school program will be available for North Quabbin youths who have been impacted by parents or guardians with a substance use disorder.

Beginning at the start of the school year in the fall, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin will offer an eight-week trauma-informed art therapy group and individual therapy sessions for these students in the Athol-Royalston Regional School District. Services are provided by master’s level mental health clinicians and art therapists with specialized training in working with children and youth impacted by trauma.

The Children’s Advocacy Center was one of 10 organizations nationally to receive a highly selective grant from the program, “Protecting Futures: Building Capacity to Service Children and Youth Impacted by America’s Drug Crisis.”

“There is a mental health crisis across the country and there is extremely limited access to services for youth and adolescents,” Athol-Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Matthew Ehrenworth said in a statement. “Given the geographic location of our towns and the severity of substance use/abuse in our region, this has had a magnified effect on our children. We currently have waitlists for our students to engage with clinicians.

“This program will provide a wonderful avenue to provide therapeutic services to some of our students with the greatest need,” he added.

Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Jeffrey Trant said the eight-week art therapy group will run eight times over two academic years, serving about eight kids in each session. The plan also includes offering individualized, ongoing services.

“For a lot of children and youth who have experienced traumatic events and have never been in therapy before, talk therapy can be a challenging model,” Trant explained. “We thought [art therapy] was a research-supported way to start to look at how we can engage with this population of children who have experienced a number of different traumatic events ... and help them to build coping skills that are supportive and non-threatening.”

Trant emphasized the importance of the partnership between the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, particularly at a time when the region is seeing fewer overdose fatalities than the rest of the state. Franklin County overdose fatalities dropped by 25% from 2021 to 2022, which Opioid Task Force officials attribute to an overdose follow-up and outreach program it launched in 2021 known as CONNECT.

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“This project will bring a vital therapeutic resource to the North Quabbin and help expand services that are available to children who are impacted by the drug crisis,” said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, who co-chairs the Opioid Task Force.

Trant said the Greenfield-based Children’s Advocacy Center is really “heartened” by the partnership with the Opioid Task Force.

“The task force has done yeoman’s work helping to support the community,” he said. “This is a natural extension of the really important work the task force has done helping those who have been impacted directly or indirectly.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.