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There are few things more distressing or perplexing than a troubled child. It seems unthinkable—in this land of opportunity, the richest nation in the world, at a time of such great innovation and technological advancement, that some children should still be failed by the systems in place.
It is this problem of troubled children that Distinguished Research Professor Charles Glisson and his partners at the nationally renowned Children's Mental Health Services Research Center seek to understand. Armed with a $4-million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Glisson launched the landmark five-year "Rural Appalachia" project in 2003 to seek out an effective treatment for hundreds of children with serious emotional and behavioral problems in over a dozen of Tennessee's poorest rural Appalachian counties.
Juvenile crime, often associated with inner cities, is not totally particular to urban life. As Dr. Gibson points out, "The highest rates of children referred to juvenile court in Tennessee are in some of the most rural counties in Appalachia." In many cases, children in rural counties have far less access to programs and treatment than their urban and suburban peers. This fact stresses the importance of enhancing mental health treatment and family care in these rural counties.
All of which is part of the daily world of concerns and initiatives for Glisson and his colleagues at the Children's Mental Health Services Research Center, a part of the College of Social Work. The center conducts critical studies on the emotional and behavioral health of at-risk kids throughout Tennessee, and collaborates on research with numerous mental health centers, universities, and foundations from coast to coast.
In this richly academic and constructive environment, Dr. Glisson remains focused on what studies in social work should accomplish. He says, "Our research must be able to say with confidence, 'Yes, this works,' or 'No, it doesn't.' We are working to save children and to save families."