• Vermont legislator hopes to transform his “Adverse Legislative Experience (ALE)”

    ImageThe principal sponsor of the Vermont ACEs bill, Dr. George Till, has an ALE (not a typo) score of at least one. He describes losing six of seven sections of the ACEs legislation as an “Adverse Legislative Experience (ALE)”. But if re-elected this November, he plans to “push again next session” for provisions to embed the ACEs research findings into medical practice. While “extremely disappointed” with the outcome of the conference committee dropping most of his bill’s provisions, his resiliency is evident as he looks ahead to the next opportunity to improve health outcomes.

    On May 10, the last day of the Vermont legislature, a broad healthcare bill (H. 596) passed that included the one remaining ACEs provision. This section mandates a review by Jan. 15, 2015 of “evidence-based materials on the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and population health and recommend to the General Assembly whether, how, and at what expense ACE-informed medical practice should be integrated into

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  • Q-and-A: Pediatrician screens parents, kids for trauma because her ACE score is 9

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    Dr. Tina Marie Hahn

    Dr. Tina Marie Hahn is a pediatrician in Alpena, Michigan. She agreed to answer these more personal questions as part of an interview about how she and other pediatricians are screening children — and parents — for adverse childhood experiences.

    Q. What personal or professional moment or event in your life inspired you to work on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)?

    A. When I was four-and-a-half years old, I saw my father murder my grandmother.

    My father was quite a demanding man — he felt as if everyone owed him. But he was also lazy. He didn’t work my entire childhood. He supported himself from state welfare checks intended to provide for his three children. My father wanted Grandma Hahn to give him money for cigarettes, but she refused. She told him he needed to go work at the hardware store and do something productive before she would give him more money. He became VERY angry and he pushed her down her basement steps.

    After pushing her, he screamed angrily: “I don’t care if she dies. When she dies, I’m going to piss on her grave.” It terrified me. It seemed as if Satan possessed him. Even though I was frightened, I stayed at grandma’s side for a day and a half, trying to give her water from a bathroom Dixie cup because she kept saying that she was thirsty. My screaming father and my mother, ignoring the whole thing, left Grandma trapped at the bottom of those steps for almost two days until her cries ceased.

    Diane, my mother, did nothing, not because she was afraid of my father, but because she followed him around

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  • Patrick Kennedy delivers raw, revealing speech to mental health advocates

    Just before former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy delivered the closing speech to attendees of the National Council for Behavioral Health conference, my daughter and I had a warm, light-hearted conversation with him outside the hall about my daughter’s work in peer services in Texas, about her anticipated motherhood, his young children, and about a Texas ranch he visited once that is bigger than the entire state Rhode Island. We stuck around to hear him talk, even though we thought we could probably miss it since it was part of the send-off for attendees going on visits to Capitol Hill and we weren’t going. We were grateful we stayed; here’s why.Image

    Kennedy gave a raw and revealing talk about his mental illness, addiction, and the “God-sized” hole in his soul before his recovery. He said his illness is “bio/psycho/social”, but added that it is also “spiritual.” After achieving successes in his political career—election to the Rhode Island state legislature at 21, Member of Congress at 27, master fundraiser for Democrats—you “would have thought that would have filled the hole in my soul but it didn’t.”

    After being arrested “on the high seas, in airports, and by traffic cops,” and being in rehab over and over again, he felt that as long as he was re-elected, he was managing. He was, after all,  meeting the family’s definition of success by winning elective office and serving the public.

    “Would I have freely chosen to bring such disregard, such disdain, and antipathy for me and bring shame on my family, like I woke up one day and said this is how I want to be perceived — as an alcoholic, drug addict who can’t get his life together? That’s not what I want for my life. And yet it was the inevitable result of me living in my illness and not knowing there was a solution. And of course I was given solutions and pointed to rehab over and over again. You would have thought I would have gotten it through my thick head that I had a problem. But my real problem was denial, thinking that if I could just continue to function and manage—continue to get re-elected­—then I must be okay.”

    Then three years ago, after crashing into a barrier at the U.S. Capitol, he waited for the “final jackpot.” He woke up, not remembering what had happened the night before. Did he have a Chappaquiddick of his own (a referral to an accident that involved his father, Sen. Edward Kennedy)? Fortunately, the event took place at 3:00 a.m., when the streets and sidewalks, were empty and no one was hurt.

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  • DOJ official advocates for juvenile justice reforms

    I expected the luncheon keynoter at the American Bar Association–American Psychological Association “Confronting Family and Community Violence” meeting in Washington, D.C., last week to be informative, even impressive, but not necessarily inspiring and motivating. Robert L. Listenbee Jr. was all of these. Demonstrating how important cross-disciplinary conversations are, his words were as relevant to the psychologists in the room as they were for the lawyers.

    Listenbee, administrator of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, served as co-chair, with former Yankees manager Joe Torre, of the National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. He mentioned the importance remembering what the ACE Study tells us when he talked about how Joe Torre’s childhood trauma impacted his adult life. Here are a few other highlights of his talk on May 2:Image

    —The $1.5 million Academy of Sciences report “Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach” has been criticized for not providing new knowledge, but the NAS-certification (an institution he noted

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  • Echo Parenting & Education rides the trauma wave

    Changing the Paradigm keynote speakers Dr. Janina Fisher and Ruth Beaglehole, Founder of Echo Parenting & Education

    Sometimes we don’t notice when history is being made. We ride a wave of logical progression and don’t even notice when it peaks – that snapshot moment when we are lifted, arms outstretched, into the waiting air and remain suspended for one glorious second before the wave breaks and pushes powerfully to shore.

    What the heck am I talking about? Our Changing the Paradigm conference. Last month, 120 participants, 22 speakers and a slew of volunteers gathered at The California Endowment for our two-day conference on developmental trauma. Everything went off perfectly. The evaluations were glowing (apart from the person who wanted avocado on the lunchtime sandwiches – I guess you can’t please everyone). But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what some of the speakers had to say:

    “It was a deep honor and a pleasure to be part of such a wonderful and inspiring exchange of hearts, minds

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