Over 450 diverse leaders gather in College Park, MD, to address health equity, prosperity and ACEs

abc2_TiffA young woman from North Carolina, Tiffany Shields (3rd in from the R), attended her first conference ever August 4-5 at the University of Maryland, College Park. She stood up and told the room that she was nervous about coming, didn’t expect people to be especially welcoming, and thought she’d probably be bored at least part of the time. Instead, it was clear from her beaming smile and enthusiasm that she loved the experience.

Of the hundreds of conferences I’ve planned and attended, this one—Historic Assembly on Health Equity and Prosperity— was far and away the most unusual and inspiring. There was poetry, music,

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At Science of Trauma briefing on Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Heitkamp urges panelists to “keep preaching”

Aheitkampbrief

When U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) arrived mid-way through a congressional briefing on the Science of Trauma last week, she delivered her remarks with passion, humor, and most of all, a sense of urgency to the room full of Capitol Hill staff and a smattering of advocates. Her message was macro as well as micro—change national policy to incorporate what the ACEs science tells us about trauma, and see and respond to the needs of those you encounter in everyday life. (Her remarks start at 27:48 and continue through 41:45.)

ACEs science refers to adverse childhood experiences. This includes the epidemiology of ACEs (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and several dozen ACE surveys in U.S. states and organizations), the neurobiology of toxic stress, the effects of toxic stress on our bodies, how toxic stress is passed from one generation to the next (epigenetic consequences), and resilience research, which shows our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal.

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Oregon psychiatrist testifies before Senate Finance Committee on the impact of childhood adversity and toxic stress on adult health

ABenningtonDavis

Appearing before the powerful Senate Finance Committee  in Washington, DC, recently, Dr. Maggie Bennington-Davis, psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Health Share Oregon, devoted a significant portion of her testimony to  the role of adversity and toxic stress during childhood on adult health, both physical and emotional. She explained how Health Share Oregon—that state’s largest Medicaid coordinated care organization—examined the people with the costliest health bills and found them to have experienced high levels of childhood adversity. She told the senators that the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), first published in 1998 by Drs. Vincent Felliti and Robert Anda, found exactly this correlation.

At the April 28 hearing titled “Mental Health in America: Where are we now?,”* Bennington-Davis addressed the need to look to people’s experiences in childhoods to improve health, knowing that mental illness and substance use disorders, along with other

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown signs landmark trauma-informed education bill into law

Gov. Brown Dillon Pilorget:Forest Grove Leader

A landmark trauma-informed education bill to address “chronic absences of students” in the state’s public schools was signed by Governor Kate Brown last week. The bill, H.B. 4002, requires two state education agencies to develop a statewide plan to address the problem and provides funding for “trauma-informed” approaches in schools.

While bill’s $500,000 in funding falls vastly short of the original $5.75 million requested for five pilot sites in an earlier version (H.B. 4031), it provides a start to leverage additional funds in the future, including those available through the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama in December. Both the Oregon bill and the federal law represent strong bi-partisan support for trauma-informed approaches in schools.

Here’s a quick summary of the new law signed on March 29, 2016:

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Momentum grows for trauma-informed movement in Tennessee

Atennessee

A little less than two years ago, a group of ACEs activists from Memphis came to a meeting of the Philadelphia ACEs Task Force and made a site visit to the 11th Street Family Health Services for “information and enlightenment,” according to Chris Peck, a member of the six-person delegation. Since then, these and other leaders in Tennessee are poised to take what they have started in Memphis statewide, demonstrating that ACEs research has the power to galvanize communities and even whole states to make fundamental changes to benefit children, adults, and families.

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The Every Student Succeeds Act includes provisions for trauma-informed practices

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press _____________________________________

Photo credit: Evan Vucci, Associated Press _____________________________________

Legislation to replace the 14-year-old No Child Left Behind law—The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama on Dec. 10—was widely praised by the administration, legislators of both parties in the House and Senate, and the organizations concerned about education policy from the NEA to the Education Trust. The consensus is that the bill is not perfect, but provides a needed recalibration of federal authority over the states in education policy while protecting the most vulnerable schools, students, and communities. If carefully implemented at all levels of government, the major goals of the legislation have the potential to improve education for all students—including those from low-income families, those with disabilities and English learners.

There are many provisions in the new law that would qualify as trauma-informed, such as those to reduce over-testing and overuse of exclusionary discipline practices, as well as those that recognize the importance of early learning. There also are notable provisions that secure a specific foothold for trauma-informed practices.

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Washington, DC, forum examines trauma-informed approaches to end school-to-prison pipeline

Free Minds

A diverse group of school staff, mental health professionals, justice advocates, and city employees recently crowded the Moot Court Room at the University of the District of Columbia David E. Clark Law School to begin dismantling the school to prison pipeline.

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