Vermont first state to propose bill to screen for ACEs in health care

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Dr. George Till, Vermont state legislator and physician

When Vermont State Legislator and physician Dr. George Till heard Dr. Vincent Felitti present the findings of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study at a conference in Vermont last October, he had an epiphany that resulted in a seismic shift in how he saw the world. The result: H. 762, The Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire, the first bill in any state in the nation that calls for integrating screening for adverse childhood experiences in health services, and for integrating the science of adverse childhood experiences into medical and health school curricula and continuing education.

That Vermont would be the first in the nation to address adverse childhood experiences so specifically in health care at a legislative level isn’t unusual. More than most states, Vermont is a “laboratory of change” for health care. It has embraced universal health care coverage for all Vermonters, and it passed the nation’s first comprehensive mental health and substance abuse parity law. (Washington State passed a law in 2011 to identify and promote innovate strategies, and develop a public-private partnership to support effective strategies, but it was not funded as anticipated. The Washington State ACEs Public-Private Initiative is currently evaluating five communities’ ACE activities.)

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Trying to make LA schools less toxic is hit-and-miss; relatively few students receive care they need

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The Peacemakers of Harmony Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA.

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For millions of troubled children across the country, schools have been toxic places. That’s not just because many schools don’t control bullying by students or teachers, but because they enforce arbitrary and discriminatory zero tolerance school discipline policies, such as suspensions for “willful defiance”. Many also ignore the kids who sit in the back of the room and don’t engage – the ones called “lazy” or “unmotivated” – and who are likely to drop out of school.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which banned suspensions for willful defiance last May, the CBITS program (pronounced SEE-bits), aims to find and help troubled students before their reactions to their own trauma trigger a punitive response from their school environment, including a teacher or principal.

Gabriella Garcia’s son attended Harmony Elementary School during the 2012-2013 school year. The school has 730 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. She says without CBITS, she would have lost custody of him and her other two children. “But for some reason,” she says, “I let him (her son) take that test.”

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Top U.S. health philanthropy – Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – awards ACEs Connection Network $384,000

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As part of its commitment to improving the health of the nation’s most vulnerable people and building a culture of health, the nation’s largest health-focused philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently awarded a $384,000, two-year grant to the ACEs Connection Network.

Jane Stevens, a long-time health, science and technology journalist, launched the network two years ago. It comprises ACEsConnection.com, a community of practice social network, and its accompanying news site, ACEsTooHigh.com.

ACEsTooHigh publishes news, features, essays and analysis for the general public about the short- and long-term consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The site has received more than one million page views over the last two years. Its stories are also distributed to other media sites, including The Huffington Post and SocialJusticeSolutions.com. With the additional resources provided by the grant, the site will feature more stories about how people and communities are implementing practices based on ACEs research and concepts, and distribute these stories more widely.

The grant will also help grow ACEsConnection, ACEsTooHigh’s companion community of practice social network, from its current 2,000 members to 8,000 participants and more than 100 groups. ACEsConnection links people – online and face-to-face — who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on adverse childhood experiences research. ACEsConnection participants include physicians, judges, social workers, nurses, academics, educators, legislators, advocates, philanthropists, peer support specialists, probation and parole officers, therapists, researchers, members of the faith-based community, writers, documentary producers, business owners, artists, and community officials.

The first five members of the ACEs Connection Network team are:

  • Valerie Krist, graphic designer for ACEsConnection and ACEsTooHigh. She also provides design assistance for group pages on ACEsConnection, and creates infographics for selected articles.
  • Sylvia Paull, a well-known network marketing strategist, develops marketing materials, strategic partnerships, outreach strategies, and new distribution channels for content.
  • Jasmine Pettis, a Masters of Public Health student at San Jose State University, is ACEsConnection’s information specialist.
  • Elizabeth Prewitt, ACEsConnection community manager, also does policy analysis for both sites. Formerly, she was director of public policy for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and director of government affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians.
  • Joanna Weill, ACEs Connection Network intern. She is working on her doctorate in social psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on the experiences and relationships that put people at risk for criminal behavior and recidivism.
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