Dr. Kathryn Wells named new Director of Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect

The Kempe Center and Kempe Foundation are pleased to announce Kathryn Wells, MD as the new Executive Director of the Center. A board certified specialist in Child Abuse Pediatrics, Dr. Wells has dedicated her career to protecting children and families and building communities where children have the opportunity to thrive.

“In my experience, child abuse and neglect can’t be solved by one person or profession,” said Wells. “In this role, I hope to build on the tremendous reputation and history of the Kempe Center as a leader in preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. We hope to build and strengthen the community partnerships we have with the State of Colorado and counties around the state. In doing so, I hope Colorado will be a model for the rest of the country.”

For nearly 50 years, the Kempe Center has strived to improve the care and well being of all children by strengthening families, communities and the systems that serve them. Through clinical service, research, education and training, the Center supports innovation in systems and communities that work with vulnerable children, youth and families.

Dr. Wells will also be serving as the Section Head for Child Abuse and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The Center is located on the Anshutz Medical Campus, and is supported by the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Kempe Foundation. It also works in partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado to run the Kempe Child Protection Team, a multidisciplinary team made up of professionals from medicine, pediatrics, mental health and hospital social work to evaluate, diagnose and treat suspected victims of child abuse and neglect.

Prior to taking this position, Wells was the Medical Director of the Denver Health Clinic at the Family Crisis Center and an attending physician at Denver Health and with the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She also did clinical research at the Kempe Center and served as an Outreach Liaison with ECHO Colorado. Wells is originally from Montana where she went to college at Carroll College in Helena, MT. She then earned her medical degree from Creighton University in Omaha, NE where she also completed a pediatric residency at Creighton/University of NE combined program. She practiced general pediatrics for 5 years in Caldwell, ID before coming to Colorado in 2001.

Evidence-Based and Family-Focused Mental Health Care in Colorado

Trauma is a costly public health problem for all Coloradans. Most often, trauma occurs as a result of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, violence, disaster and other emotionally harmful experiences. Traumatic events induce feelings of powerlessness, fear, hopelessness and a constant state of alert, as well as feelings of shame, guilt, rage and isolation.

Without treatment, children who experience repeated exposure to traumatic events have an increased risk of developing mental and substance use disorders, suicide and chronic physical ailments. They are also more likely to experience increased involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and may even face premature death.

We recently connected with Shannon Van Deman, PhD, who leads the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado and asked her to share more about how they are addressing childhood trauma.

 

What is the role of the Pediatric Mental Health Institute?

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we have a fundamental responsibility to provide mental health care for our patients. Our services are child-centered and family-focused, meaning we work collaboratively with our patients and their families to help them through crises and empower them to develop the resources and skills to get better.

The Pediatric Mental Health Institute is one of the largest providers in the Rocky Mountain region that offers a full continuum of psychiatric care and provide a broad spectrum of psychiatric services, including outpatient, day treatment and inpatient services for children and adolescents. I’m particularly proud of our Medical Day Treatment program, which is a joint venture with Aurora Public Schools. It’s an accredited school program that employs two certified teachers along with two paraprofessionals from the Aurora Public School system. The program is also staffed with nurses, a psychologist, social worker and other medical professionals who work together with youth and families to reach academic goals and improve physical and emotional health.

What do you want Coloradans to know about trauma?

Today in Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 24, and an estimated one out of six teens has a diagnosable mental health condition. At Children’s, we’ve seen the need for psychiatric treatment go up year over year, and we’ve tripled the number of outpatient services in the last five years. Prevention, early identification, early intervention and treatment are needed now more than ever, and we’ve been working alongside Kempe to ensure Colorado’s health care providers are educated on the complexities of trauma and how it impacts their delivery.

How can we positively shape the mental health of Colorado children?

It is completely normal for children and adolescents to have difficulty managing their thoughts and feelings, but some aspects of our culture have told us we need to face these challenges alone. My hope is that through our work, we will help families engage in more conversations that break the stigma of mental health. It’s incredibly valuable for individuals and families with this lived experience to talk about their challenges and tell their story to others going through the same things. It’s also very important for Coloradans to advocate for child-focused legislation because public policy decisions can dramatically shape the health of children, for better or worse. I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about advocacy for child health to sign up as a Child Health Champion.

 

Our Legislative Priorities: What to Expect in 2019

The legislative session began on January 4 and Governor Jared Polis officially took office on January 8. The 2018 election set up a big change in the political landscape with a trifecta Democratic control of the Governor’s Office, State Senate and State House.

In opening day speeches, Democratic leaders identified state paid family medical leave, minimum wage preemption, the opioid crisis and high-quality education for all as priorities. Republican leaders pointed out that voters said no to statewide tax increases in the 2018 election and identified concerns about oil and gas restrictions, safe injection sites and restrictions on gun access.

During Governor Polis’s State of the State address, he outlined his ambitious agenda, including funding for full day kindergarten throughout Colorado and the creation of the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care to be run by Lieutenant Governor Primavera.

The Kempe Foundation also has an active agenda for the 2019 legislative session.

  • Creating the Child Abuse Response & Evaluation (CARE) Network. We are continuing to promote the health and well-being of Colorado’s kids through the creation of a healthcare provider network that develops and maintains a standardized, coordinated response to children at risk of maltreatment.
  • Revising the Children’s Code. Kempe is actively participating in conversations to revise the Children’s Code to protect newborns from the affects of substance exposure.

We will continue to provide updates through the 2019 Legislative Session.

Announcing the 2019 Kempe Award Honorees

On March 14, The Kempe Foundation will honor two community advocates at our signature Imagine 2019 Luncheon – Jade Woodard and Cresa. Both honorees are commended for their dedication to children through professional and personal accomplishments and commitments. We are grateful to have these honorees as long-time supporters of Kempe and leaders in our community.

“Kempe is pleased to honor Jade and Cresa as community leaders at our Imagine 2019 Luncheon,” says John Faught, Chief Executive Officer of The Kempe Foundation. “This year’s honorees manifest the same compassion and caring for children that is the core of Kempe’s work.”

2019 Kempe Professional Award Honoree, Jade Woodard is the Executive Director of Illuminate Colorado – a united network of four established organizations partnering to build brighter childhoods through education, advocacy and family support. Governed by a single Board of Directors, agency programs are fully integrated to leverage resources and increase overall capacity to implement powerful programs to keep kids safe.

Over the past decade, Jade has worked alongside The Kempe Foundation to bring people together in innovative ways to heal children and families. By leveraging her relationships and collaborating with other professionals, she continues to help move statewide child abuse and neglect prevention efforts forward.

 

2019 Kempe Imhoff Family Community Award Honoree, Cresa is the world’s largest tenant representation firm with a corporate mission to “Do the Right Thing.” Through their Cresa Cares program, employees and leadership are encouraged to give back to their local communities by supporting charitable organizations, many of which are dedicated to the well-being and care of children and families.

Garrett Johnson, the Managing Principal of Cresa and a Kempe Ambassador, will accept the award on behalf of the company. For more than three years, Garrett has served as a Kempe Ambassador, working in concert with the Foundation to identify awareness, education, advocacy and fundraising opportunities to help end child abuse and neglect. He is a community advocate for not only the safety, health and well-being of children, but also for the work of Kempe.

Congratulations to this year’s honorees – we thank you for your passion and dedication to Kempe’s mission to keep all children safe and healthy by supporting experts in the field, advocating for children and engaging with communities. And we look forward to celebrating you on March 14!

Register today for Imagine 2019 and help us celebrate these incredible individuals!

 

Feb. 7 Youth Mental Health Event

Join Kempe for our winter Uniting Communities for Kids event featuring a panel of experts on mental health issues facing children and their families in Colorado and learn what can be done to protect and heal.

Thursday, Feb. 7
7:30-9:00 a.m.
Wellshire Events Center – 3333 S Colorado Blvd. Denver, CO

Over 200,000 kids and teens have diagnosable mental health conditions in Colorado, but less than a quarter of them receive any type of professional care. What should be done to better identify and treat mental health conditions in our youth.

Moderator:
Don Mares- Executive Director, Denver Department of Human Services

Panelists:
Steven Berkowitz, MD – Visiting Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colorado, School of Medicine

Evelin Gomez, PhD – Department of Pediatrics, The Kempe Center

Shannon Van Deman, PhD – Vice President, Pediatric Mental Health Institute, Children’s Hospital Colorado