Implementation of new Vermont law begins with the appointment of legislators to bicameral, bipartisan ACEs Working Group

After the 2014 Vermont legislative session, Rep. George Till was picking himself up, dusting himself off and reflecting on what he called an “ALE…..or Adverse Legislative Experience” when his ambitious legislative vision fizzled into a tiny bubble of hope to create a trauma-informed state. That bubble was enough to inspire  ACEs-related legislation — No. 43, H. 508, signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott on May 22 — and policymakers are scheduled to start implementing the law next month. While the law calls for incremental steps, the long-term impact could be substantial.

Rep. Theresa Wood
Rep. Theresa Wood

When I spoke to Rep. Theresa Wood, a member of the House Committee on Human Services, soon after the bill passed in late May, she said Till, a physician,  deserves the credit for educating legislators about ACEs. Even just a year ago, she said, “a few legislators on the inside track knew about ACEs, now almost all of us do. It takes time to educate but it is well worth it. The unanimous votes in the House and Senate reflect the value of that work.”

Matt Levin, executive director of the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance, said thanks to Till, ACEs awareness in the Vermont legislature is very high—he was a “one-man band” for years on ACEs in the legislature.

VLyons
Sen. Virginia Lyons

Till has introduced several ACE-related bills over the years and favored the stronger Senate version of the bill authored by Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, vice chair of the Committee on Health and Welfare. This legislation would have established a large and diverse Children and Families Trauma Committee within the Agency of Human Services to examine approaches to family wellness, training for school nurses and increase incentives for voluntary screening in health plans that are part of the Blueprint for Health that covers most Vermonters.

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Trauma and ACEs missing in response to opioid crisis, says national organization

 

A policy brief issued in July by the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) forcefully develops the case for trauma-informed approaches to address the opioid crisis—to prevent and treat addiction—based on strong evidence that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at the root of the crisis. CTIPP is a national organization that advocates for trauma-informed prevention and treatment programs at the federal, state and local levels.

Successful strategies to attack the opioid epidemic must recognize the powerful correlation between ACEs and substance abuse demonstrated by the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), according to CTIPP. While recognizing the complexity of addiction pathways and contributing factors such as job loss, CTIPP argues that understanding the role of ACEs and trauma in addiction is essential in developing effective strategies to prevent addiction and treat those already addicted.

The brief, “Trauma-Informed Approaches Need to be Part of a Comprehensive Strategy for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic“, describes the evidence showing a correlation between traumatic experiences, including the ACE Study and more recent studies that, for example, “demonstrate a clear dose response relationship between the number of trauma experiences and increased risk of prescription drug misuse in adults.”

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Perspectives on building healthy communities

National Policy Implications Panel

 (l to r) Dr. Garth Graham, president, Aetna Foundation; Wendy Ellis, project director, Building Community Resilience Collaborative, GWU; Stuart M. Butler, The Brookings Institution

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After decades of working at the national level on health and mental policy in Washington, DC, I find myself looking for ways to get involved locally—the closer to home the better, and the more tangible the work, the more gratifying. There has never been a better time to act locally, not just because of the polarized national scene, but because opportunities abound to really make a difference at the local level.

With this budding interest local involvement taking shape, I was eager see what lessons I could learn from a May 9th event titled “New directions for communities: How they can boost neighborhood health,” sponsored by the venerable organization The Brookings Institution, best known for leadership at the national and global levels.

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States produce a bumper crop of ACEs bills in 2017—nearly 40 bills in 18 states

NCSLA scan done in March by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), through StateNet, of bills introduced in 2017 that specifically include adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the text produced a surprising number of bills — close to 40 — in a 18 states. A scan done a year ago produced less than a handful. NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves state legislators and their staffs.

The shear volume of bills in so many states represents a promising trend—a growing interest by state policymakers in ACEs science. Most of the bills are still pending in state legislatures. A Utah resolution to promote ACEs science in state policy was signed by the state’s governor and a Virginia resolution that mentions ACEs in trauma-informed community networks was passed by the legislature. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to include ACEs science in that state’s Medicaid Family Home Visiting program.

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Comprehensive legislation introduced in U.S. Senate and House to address trauma

Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Durbin, Christinia Bethel & Joe Barnhart (Left to right)

Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) at the Dec. 1, 2016 congressional briefing on addressing childhood trauma

The “Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act” (S. 774H.R. 1757) was introduced on March 29 in the Senate by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) with co-sponsors Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and, for the first time in the House of Representatives, by Chicago Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL7). A version of the bill was introduced in the Senate in the final days of the last Congress. The bill’s sponsors were not successful in their efforts to gain bipartisan support in advance of its introduction.

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs resolution to encourage state policies and programs based on ACEs science

Utah Governor Gary Herbert

Utah Governor Gary Herbert speaks to press at the monthly conference in March

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law on March 22 a resolution (H.C.R. 10) to encourage state policy and programs to incorporate the science of adverse childhood experiences to address “severe emotional trauma and other adverse childhood experiences” in children and adults and implement evidence-based interventions to increase resiliency. The resolution was approved unanimously on March 7 by the Republican-dominated legislature.

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Building human resilience for climate change addressed at Washington, DC, conference

rooftop-view-from-apa

The missing piece in the response to climate disruption—preparing humans to cope with the trauma and toxic stress it causes—was the focus of a recent Conference on Building Human Resilience for Climate Change sponsored by the International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC). About a hundred mental health professionals, emergency response and disaster management officials, and others from education and faith communities gathered in Washington, DC. Continue reading

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