December 1, 2021

Project fights effects of childhood trauma

Cortland County has a number of government agencies and nonprofits designed to help people with an array of physical, financial and psychological problems. But until recently there was no overarching group that directed people to resources that addressed their particular needs.

That has changed with the introduction last year of a group that includes Family Counseling Services of Cortland, YWCA Cortland, CAPCO, the Family Health Network, the United Way, Seven Valley Health and Cortland Prevention Resources — dubbed the Cortland Resilience Project, said Carol Tytler, director of development and marketing for Family Counseling Services of Cortland.

“Resilience is what we’re trying to build in people, because resilience is what allows you to bounce back in life,” Tytler said.

The group works with a cohort or specific demographic that the group seeks to help — people who have had adverse childhood experiences. These experiences include being a victim or witness or violence or abuse, as well as childhood exposure in the home to substance abuse, mental illness and family instability.

These experiences, especially in combination, can leave their mark on people, according to an accumulating body of research that points to negative health outcomes later in life, as well as future substance abuse and mental health problems, reports the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They can be an indication that they may have difficulties later in life,” Tytler said.

Just because people have an adverse childhood experience does not mean they will develop problems later in life, but the chances of that happening do increase, and increase more if a person has had multiple experiences.

The Cortland Resilience Project seeks to help people affected by these experiences, Tytler said. While it is geared toward people who have Medicaid for their healthcare provider, the project has helped a handful of people “who have fallen through the cracks,” she said.

The group is one of three locally that are supported by the Care Compass Network, a nonprofit based in Binghamton. The other two cohort groups, which address other public health problems, are based at the Family Health Network and at Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, Tytler said.

The project brings a new approach to Cortland. Instead of sending one person with a particular type of problem from agency to agency, representatives of these agencies instead sit down every other week to work on individual cases, Tytler said.

“That’s the key with a cohort … people working together to solve issues in the community,” she said.

The project allows the participating groups “to get more deeply engaged with people,” said Lindy Glennon, executive director of CAPCO.

Housing is one problem that continually crops up, she said. While some clients may be able to handle rent payments, putting together enough money for an initial deposit may be a challenge.

“It’s a roadblock for them, so they may be stuck in something that’s substandard,” she said.

The cohort group can direct people to available resources, typically at the Department of Social Services and Catholic Charities.

While particular problems might be obvious, the project allows participants to see these particular problems in their total context, making it possible to gain a better understanding of a person’s needs, Glennon said.

“We’re doing this from a traumatic informed platform,” she said. “It’s more than a Band-Aid approach to dealing whatever their struggles are … but a deeper look at an individual or a family.