Program combines technology with humanity to help ease pain and suffering | MUSC

The second to believe the girl was Annaliz Gun.

For several months, the teenager, who was sitting in front of an experienced therapist, was repeatedly sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. When she finally had the courage to tell her mother, she was laughed at, told she needed to stop making up stories to get attention.

How can something like this not break a person?

It was a family friend who finally took the girl seriously. Together they declared the man to the authorities, and the teenager moved in with a friend. Eventually, her path will lead her to the De Norton Children’s Child Protection Center, where she will find herself in front of Anna, a woman entrusted with the almost impossible task of helping bring this girl back together.

“I just remember that at first she didn’t react very well,” Gan recalls. “Maybe a random ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but that was all.”

And why should she? After all, what have adults ever done for her other than pain and humiliation?

Ask any therapist who works regularly with children who have experienced trauma and they will tell you the same thing: traditional methods rarely work.

“The pieces I’ve discovered over the years are often that too much of an intellectual attitude towards a child can hinder any progress you might make,” Gann said. In another way, she explained, creating a calmer atmosphere is usually necessary.

“When you think about how kids learn in school, they don’t just sit and listen all day as the teacher speaks,” she said. “They do activities, notebooks, go to training centers. So, if you work with traumatized youth, it makes sense that such an approach could be the best way. ”

SPARK has 12 sections that can be used by providers during individual lessons with each child.

Thanks to programs such as SPARK (Supporting Providers and Reaching Kids) – an initiative that uses technology in the form of interactive games with touch screens, drawing tools, trivia, relaxation – therapists such as Gun now have more such resources. .

Created by the College of Nursing of the University of South Carolina Medical School, SPARK falls under the auspices of the College’s Center for Healthy Lifestyle Application, or TACHL. The mission of the program, which has been running for a decade now, is simple but powerful: to use technology to improve the health of the population.

Back in 2011, the state immediately saw its value and accepted it as one of SC SmartState’s Centers of Economic Excellence. Today, TACHL is a giant umbrella that caters to a range of needs, from families displaced by natural disasters to firefighters battling depression.

Program director Kenneth Ruger, Ph.D., said the program seeks to lend a hand to anyone who wants to accept it: a couple who lost their home during a hurricane and live without a car. A man who fell from his deer is standing 30 feet above the ground and has broken his back. A teenager who was mocked by her mother’s boyfriend. These are the faces of TACHL. People who Ruger and his team want to keep helping.

According to the National Center for PTSD, about 15 million adults in the U.S. are battling post-traumatic stress disorder this year.

“Many of these adults do not receive the necessary care because of access and quality of care. Thanks to better coverage through technology, we want to halve that number, ”Ruger said.

“Ultimately, our goal is to improve access and care through the use of technology,” he explained. “Whether it’s through an app on your smartphone or something as simple as text instructions, all we do is aim to reach more people, give them the tools to improve their health and connect them to best practice care. It all starts here in South Carolina, but our goal is to go beyond that. “

TACHL is not just cool programs and trendy websites. In addition to technological innovation, the program also mentors and provides expertise to researchers. Let’s say someone has a great idea but may not be very knowledgeable in technology or knows first how to write a grant to get funding for their idea: TACHL is here to help.

Two empty pairs of fire boots in front of a fire truck
According to a study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation, firefighters are more likely to die as a result of suicide than in the line of duty. The Firefighter Health Center provides a variety of resources and education for firefighters and their families.

Program liaison Jessica Chandler, Ph.D., remembers a transplant surgeon who wanted to conduct post-transplant research, focusing on results but didn’t know the best way to collect data. Chandler and her team came up with a Bluetooth-enabled remote monitor for transplant patients who gave consent, which he could use to track how they arrive in real time.

“Not only that, we took him through the whole grant application process – something he didn’t have experience with,” Chandler said.

She is currently working on a project that uses technology to control and improve blood pressure in patients with hypertension and diabetes. Yes, there will be an app, but the real hard work comes in close collaboration with the clinician to find out what specific data he or she needs and in what format.

Tony Hazelton, TACHL Program Manager, works directly with end users – sometimes clinicians, but more often than not ordinary people who use tools created by TACHL.

“Jessica. Ken. I. We all approach the problem from different points of view, ”Haiselton said. “But what unites us all is that, in the end, we’re all focused on reaching – and ultimately helping – people who don’t usually have access to this kind of service.”

Here are just a sample of areas where TACHL has roots:

Screenshot of samples of the Bounce Back program
Screenshots from the Bounce Back Now program.
  • Disaster Mental Health: Programs like Bounce Back Now (available in both English and Spanish) address PTSD, depression and sleep problems after a disaster, and connect people with resources they may need in a very hard times.

  • Feeling the first response: The Fire Behavioral Health Center offers a variety of tools, applications and online resources to help those who respond quickly to suicide prevention, mental health stigma and alcohol abuse, and other needs.

  • Mental Health: SPARK, as well as SC Safe Seniors, a training program to teach health professionals how to identify elder abuse, are just two of the tools available to both providers and patients.

  • Emotional Recovery After Trauma: The MUSC Trauma Resilience and Recovery Program addresses a nationwide attention model that addresses the mental health needs of patients with traumatic bed injuries, as well as text messages, chatbots, and telemedicine-based follow-up. . long after they left the hospital.

Ruger believes that more and more suppliers, agencies and states are seeing what MUSC is doing with TACHL, they will want to emulate that. But even more important to him and his team is how the program affects people – people who use tools created by TACHL to improve their lives.

“A lot of patients who need help don’t get it because of the cost, the stigma, the transportation, you name it,” he said. “TACHL has made it easier for people to access needed mental health care, often in their own homes.”

For Anna, a pediatric therapist, sometimes approaching things differently gives the most satisfying results. Thanks to TACHL and SPARK, the teenager she worked with has made tremendous progress.

“It took a while, but eventually it opened up to me. She became excellent at school again. She has regained hope for her future, ”Gan said. “It was just amazing. She even started talking about who she wants to be when she grows up – a doctor. “

As it turns out, with the right tools and the right people you can sometimes reassemble a person.

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