Forty years ago, Dr. C. Henry Kempe would bring as many as four Denver families at a time into his tiny clinic on Jasmine Street to be guided in a special kind of therapy: rebuilding parent-child relationships.
Today, his vision lives on in the Kempe Center in the 38,000-square-foot Gary Pavilion on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Executive Director Dr. Desmond Runyan says he has the same resolve to fill the center with children and parents needing help with that reconnection.
This spring, Runyan said the center is recommitting itself to addressing the long-term consequences of maltreatment. The center is expanding its capacity to provide acute counseling and evidence-based mental health treatment services to children and families.
“The major long-term consequences of child abuse are psychological,” Runyan said. “Kempe is committed to serving the needs of maltreated children and helping restore them to their full potential.”
Families will have access to leading treatments in the field, including parent-child interaction therapy and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, Runyan said. The clinic is led by providers Laura Eccles, Dr. Deborah Carter, Dr. Bill Betts and their colleagues in psychology and psychiatry at the center.
The center has already begun taking in new children, with plans to expand services throughout 2012—the 50th anniversary year of Dr. Kempe’s landmark medical article, “The Battered Child Syndrome.”
Prevent Child Abuse America estimates that child maltreatment costs society nearly $104 billion a year. That includes the immediate costs put on the child welfare, medical and law enforcement systems. But more significantly, it also includes the chronic health problems and lost productivity of abuse victims as they grow up.
A half century ago, doctors were only just realizing the scope of this problem.
“In those early days, the data on the size of the problem was limited and there was less knowledge of the profound health and mental health consequences and the costs of child abuse to society,” Runyan said.
That’s what makes the foresight of Dr. Kempe’s work so significant, said Patricia L. Peterson, President and CEO of The Kempe Foundation. The foundation raises money to directly support the work of the center.
“We want to fill The Kempe Center to the brim with children getting the best treatment in the world,” Peterson said. “We know the need is great. We hear every week in the news about children suffering abuse and neglect. But we also know that they have a place here for healing.”
The clinic will be named for long-time Kempe supporter and Board Member Walt Imhoff.
“Walt understands that changes in health care financing make it difficult for families to afford these services on their own,” Peterson said. “His commitment to creating a place where children and families can come together and work toward a better future together is steadfast. Everyone at Kempe is grateful for his support.”