Post-traumatic stress disorder, on the streets of Philadelphia?
That's the way Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr., acting commissioner of the city's Department of Human Services, saw the aftermath of a shooting Jan. 6 at the Simons Recreation Center in West Oak Lane.
"The children and youth who were in the building but didn't actually witness it, they were terrified, they were crying," said Evans, who hurried to the center with psychiatric and social workers to help the frightened youngsters cope.
"They were afraid to come back in the building," Evans said.
Those children, along with the more troubled, are among the youngsters Evans hopes will be helped by the recommendations of the Philadelphia Compact, unveiled yesterday.
The compact is a citywide commitment to support children and families in healthy social and emotional development, drawn up by a blue-ribbon commission on children's behavioral health established by Mayor Street.
It focuses on more-effective coordination of services among agencies - from courts to schools to child welfare - better use of dollars now available and raising funds to expand shared efforts to reach out to kids. Early intervention also is stressed.
Street told those gathered for the unveiling of the commission's report at the National Constitution Center that the city is focused on enhancing public safety, but added:
"Caring for children is the most important responsibility that we have as a city."
Evans, also director of the city's behavioral-health/mental-retardation services and pilot of the children's health commission's work, joined Street and others involved, including schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas, and the commission's co-chairs, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Family Court Administrative Judge Kevin Dougherty.
Evans said Philadelphia is the first major city in the nation to fund and support a citywide initiative to bring agencies, experts, activists and parents together to share in working to improve children's emotional and social health.
At least $6 million in public and private funding was to be allocated to the recommendations.
Of that, $1 million will be from private foundations and $5 million from state and federal sources coming into Evans' behavioral health and retardation agency, said Street spokesman Joe Grace.
Evans said about 20 percent of children nationally have some form of social or emotional problem. "We think that Philadelphia is not much different," he said.
Such problems include not only violent behavior but depression, "conduct disorder" and anxiety, he said.