Psychologist dedicated to preventing child abuse

Posted at: 04/08/2013 9:16 AM
Updated at: 04/10/2013 10:09 AM
By: Heather Mills, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Photo: Susan Miller
Photo: Dr. Susan Miller

She's changing the lives of children in the most dire situations, many of whom are victims of abuse.

Dr. Susan Miller's day job is to help abused children through their painful recovery process, but in her spare time, she's created an organization to prevent child abuse before it ever happens.

Dr.Miller is a Clinical Pediatric Psychologist at UNM Hospital. In the Carrie Tingley Rehabilitation Center, she works with children recovering from cancer, traumatic brain injuries and child abuse.

She says about three years ago, they started seeing an increase.

"The beatings were worse. The injury to the child was worse. And on top of that, the patients were getting older." "The statistics are horrible. In 2010, nationally, New Mexico ranked 6th for child abuse, which is horrible. We ranked 2nd for death by child abuse," Dr. Miller added.

"Until we address drug and alcohol abuse in our state at a really high level, and unless we start helping communities to help themselves, we're going to still see child abuse." Dr. Miller says abuse can happen in any socioeconomic situation. But, when finances are tight, there's a greater risk. AAll of a sudden there's this whole environment that's boiling up."

That's why she created NM CAPP - New Mexico Child Abuse Prevention Partnership.

In a year and a half, 210 people and organizations have come together, including UNM, CYFD and the Health Department.

"It's not so much a “me” thing as it is a “we” thing," explained Dr. Miller. These groups are reaching out to under-served communities across the state to find out what's missing, and to then teach people to be self-sufficient.

“The research itself proves that that makes a difference," Dr. Miller said. "It is absolutely preventable it does not have to happen." Right now, CAPP is working with the Department of Education.

Dr. Miller says if they can get kids ready for school, they can break the cycle of abuse.

There is some good news - in 2011, child abuse decreased slightly bringing the New Mexico to 8th in the nation, up from 6th.

If you want to help NM CAPP, check out: http://nmcapp.unm.edu/index.html.

You can also get tickets to the Precious Gems Gala on April 20th. Tickets are $100. There's dinner, dancing and a silent auction. Proceeds go to NM CAPP.

For more information visit: http://nmcapp.unm.edu/events/preciousgems.html