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

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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

Congressional briefing addresses public policy to improve response to ACEs

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In the final weeks of the 114th Congress, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) welcomed her colleague Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) as a new host for the third and final briefing on addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The December 1 briefing focused on public policies to improve coordination, prevention and response to childhood trauma.

ACEs comes from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with an accumulation of childhood adversities — including divorce, racism, living with an alcoholic parent, and physical abuse — have a higher risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism.

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Educators’ “complex trauma” resolution: Will it have an impact?

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Robert Hull and Donna Christy

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When I met up with school psychologists Donna Christy and Robert Hull at the Starbucks in Greenbelt, MD, they sparred good-naturedly about each other’s extra-curricular activities outside the school building—he says she is a big honcho with the National Education Association (NEA), and she says he will speak to any audience, anywhere (as long as his expenses are covered) on the subject of trauma and education. Both work for the Prince George’s (P.G.) County School District in nearby Washington, DC.

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Best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” tells an inspiring story of overcoming ACEs

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In search of insight into the country’s stark cultural divides in preparation for a week of potentially difficult conversations in Kentucky where I’d be attending family reunion and 50-year high school reunion, I dove into “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance. Throughout this mesmerizing, painful, and hilarious memoir, I kept wondering if the author might know about the ACE Study. The answer was found on page 226 when “ACEs” jumps out at me and continues for several pages. I leapt from the living room sofa and darted to the kitchen to tell my fiancé Bill about it—and practically jump for joy.

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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”

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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

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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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