The Urban Trauma Network Initiative was created in response to the national reckoning on racism that occurred in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Black, Indigenous, and Latine children and youth of color have been disproportionately affected by the continued increase in urban violence and the impact of structural, institutional, and personal racism intersecting with the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After viewing the severe impact of the pandemic and the racism epidemic in communities of color, and specifically within BILPOC youth here in Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) decided to further investigate the capacity and quality of mental/behavioral health services families and communities of color have access to within the state. The investigation found that most behavioral health services available in CT lack key components affecting youth of color, such as utilization of a generational and inherited racial trauma lens. Without understanding and addressing the racial trauma that a child has experienced, providers cannot have a complete picture of the child’s mental/behavioral health and will be unable to provide comprehensive treatment.

This analysis of the current services provided to Connecticut youth of color also highlighted that many behavioral health providers have received limited, if any, training on addressing and supporting individuals experiencing racial trauma. This limited training means that even if a provider is able to identify the role racial trauma may be having on an individual’s presentation within their treatment, they lack the required interventions to help that individual heal from those traumas. As a result, youth of color may be misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and ultimately not experience the full benefits of treatment.

Additionally, recent research has shown that despite the increased stressors occurring, communities of color continue to be hesitant to access mental health services, including services for their children, due to historical racial injustices within the profession, lack of representation within the providers who are providing these services, and a general distrust that these services will be able to truly understand and support them.

Seeing these areas of improvement across the behavioral health services provided within the state, CT DCF partnered with the Urban Trauma organization to revolutionize mental health services provided to youth of color within the state by addressing the key issues within the system in a holistic initiative, the Urban Trauma Network Initiative (UTNI). The UTNI is a transformative project to redefine the mental health services youth of color receive in Connecticut. The initiative seeks to improve these services through racial equity training for providers as well as through supporting organizations in racially-just capacity building and long-term sustainability.

View a recorded webinar about the UTNI below.

For context about the Department of Children and Families’ work to promote racial equity in its services, read this 2023 report.

For more details about the project, click the button below to visit the Urban Trauma Performance Improvement Center (UTPIC) website.