Tiny steps add up to building healthy communities in WA, PA, NC, DE and NY

The Children’s Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA, is one of 42 cities and towns in Washington State that’s using research to improve the health of its community. (Some day soon I’ll tell you the story about how a state built a state-wide community network that pulled off some miraculous and remarkably innovative cost- and life-saving changes, and then how the state — perhaps inadvertently — yanked the plug on the community it built.)

The research includes the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE Study), studies that show how toxic stress damages children’s brains, and economic analyses that shows how prevention programs reduce health, criminal justice and social service costs.

For CRI, this means taking many tiny steps that add up to big changes. These tiny steps focus on how this community of about 30,000 souls builds in resilience

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‘Starve the beast,’ say these cities – but don’t cut people off; reduce need for services instead

Senior Hope in Albany, NY

In a plain brick building on a tree-lined street in Albany, NY, a 67-year-old man brought to his knees from a lifetime struggle with alcohol addiction fills out a survey. Across town, on the bucolic campus of a residential treatment center for troubled teenage boys, a counselor asks a 13-year-old the same questions.

  • Did a parent often swear at you, insult you, put you down or humiliate you?
  • Did you see your mother being hit, pushed, slapped or kicked?
  • Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

What’s the point of dredging up bad memories with these and seven other questions? Believe it or not, there’s a long-term payoff for the man, the boy and the city and county of Albany.

Strangely enough, it has to do with the short-term, beneficial effects of the drugs they’re using. Nicotine reduces anger, increases focus and relieves depression. Alcohol relieves stress.

The 67-year-old learns that, all things considered, using alcohol was a reasonable coping strategy for

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