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Sen. Blunt Talks Mental Health Funding During Preschool Visit

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt toured the Metro YMCA Head Start in Kansas City, Missouri, Monday to learn more about a program that helps kids deal with trauma.

“Here’s a case where you’re investing early and trying to figure out what you can do to intervene in the life of a child that has some traumatic experience,” Blunt said after sitting in on a lesson at the Crittenton Children’s Center.

The teacher used baby dolls to show the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds how to care for someone else.

“This is how you deal with a child you’re responsible for," said Blunt. “You rub their back, you hold them, you do those sorts of important things. It’s hard to overestimate how important it is that we understand that as ... we’re getting kids ready for school.”

The Trauma Smart program through St. Luke’s Crittenton Children’s Center teaches kids skills like emotional and social resiliency.

“What we believe is attachment is at the basis of all human relations,” Trauma Smart Director Susan Pinne said. “Once you have that attachment in place, then you’re able to begin to recognize your own emotions, your own feelings, and recognize the behaviors that you have that come from those feelings.”

Without those skills, Pinne says kids are more likely to lash out because they can’t channel their anger and frustration. They may even resort to violence to deal with extreme emotion.

“A significant investment here in a program like this makes a big difference for some kids later when they get to a more traditional school setting,” Blunt said.

Blunt has advocated for treating mental health issues like all other health issues. But, he added, it is impossible to prioritize funding for everything.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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