KNOXVILLE (WATE) - After a studies found a link between childhood trauma and health problems later in life, federal funds are shifting to help prevent childhood trauma from occurring.
Experts say federal funds are only used to treat adult symptoms. But because of new research, their methods are changing.
Throughout Kim Fillicetti's childhood she was physically, sexually and mentally abused. Her mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today, Fillicetti still has a hard time coping with her childhood trauma.
"My stepfather, when she remarried and had my little sister, he sexually abused me, and my mother beat us children. She tried setting us on fire," said Fillicetti.
Rebecca Kelly, the Vice President of Programs for the non-profit Child and Family Tennessee, said studies show that the more trauma a child experiences, the more likely they are to have medical and behavioral health problems as adults.
"Some of those symptoms are substance abuse, obesity, lung cancer, smoking, untreated mental illness, the repetition of violence or domestic violence," said Kelly.
Kelly said the childhood experience can lead to a drug dependence and ultimately a shorter life span.
Fillicetti said she used to self-medicate to numb the pain. Now she's clean, but the mental anguish of the childhood trauma remains.
"My mental illnesses and being bipolar, my trauma stuff, I don't get out much," said Fillicetti.
Due to an increase in childhood trauma awareness, treatment is changing. Federal grant money is now going toward programs focusing on preventing childhood trauma or early treatment.
Child and Family Tennessee was recently awarded a federal grant of $5 million over five years.
Kelly said some of the money will go toward helping the children at Child and Family Tennessee's nursery.
"We'll be looking at speech development, motor development, mental health development, behavioral development and we'll be using assessments to help us track where they are and if they are on track and if not, how do we help get them on track," said Kelly.
It's help Fillicetti wishes was available when she was a child.
Kelly said to help prevent childhood traumas, Child and Family Tennessee is now focusing on treating the family system and not just one individual.