Why the United Health Foundation Gave New Center for Children $2.9 Million

The United Health Foundation (UHF) has given $2.9 million to create a new children's mental health training program based in Minneapolis. The grant was presented to the Washburn Center for Children, which will house the new United Health Foundation Training Institute.

The institute's goals are twofold: to increase the quality of children's mental health care in Minnesota through research and training, and to create a national model for that health care which can be replicated across the country. Washburn has often led the way in Minnesota and across the country in testing and validating evidence-based therapies for children, and the UHF grant should help the center expand that work.

Children's mental health is still a relatively young and developing field, and organizations like Washburn often are great sources of innovation in care. But there are not many centers that provide this kind of development, and similarly few that are equipped to train psychologists to use the latest techniques. Washburn currently trains about 80 interns a year, but the new center will be able to provide a much larger number of doctors with that critical training.

One example is Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). A few years ago, Washburn was the first mental health facility in the state to offer the treatment. Now it has been buttressed by evidence, with many of the doctors trained by Washburn using it successfully to help young patients. A 2007 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Psychiatry looked at 38 trials and concluded that TF-CBT should be the "first-line" psychological treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Washburn and the UHF also hope that the center will help provide better coverage to children in Minnesota, where only 20% of children with mental health problems get the care they need. According to the Children's Mental Health Network, as many as one in five children have a diagnosable mental disorder. Yet the resources dedicated to solving these problems have not kept up.

Children's mental health is a growing field, and as funders like the United Health Foundation look at ways to solve community health problems early on, they'll continue to prioritize providing care for children. Although none of the foundation's priorities explicitly mention children, the objective is definitely "baked in" to its goals of creating healthier communities, expanding access to care, and improving medical outcomes.