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.

Continue reading

States explore trauma screening in the child welfare system

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

As trauma-informed initiatives have multiplied in recent years, more child welfare agencies are now grappling with how to properly screen for trauma.

Along with access to trauma-focused, evidence-based treatments and staff training, screening is a key part of building a trauma-informed system. But that approach has until recently had relatively little traction in the child welfare field.

According to a new paper that looks at the implementation of a recent wave of trauma screening initiatives in five states, child welfare agencies can help steer thousands of children to treatment related to their exposure to traumatic events.

But implementation concerns — such as how to integrate screening into agency practices and ensuring that sufficient trauma-informed services are available to children — are still an issue for most child-welfare agencies.

According to Jason Lang, director of dissemination and implementation for the Child Health and Development Institute and the lead author of a case study on trauma screening, most child welfare systems do not routinely screen children for trauma.

Little research exists yet about how trauma screening improves outcomes among children in the child welfare system. Child welfare systems that do want to screen for trauma often lack a scientifically valid tool and implementation practices have yet to be developed.

“There is definitely a shift towards the recognition that it’s a good thing to do and many systems want to do it, but I think there’s still some concrete challenges to actually putting it into place universally that some states are really struggling with,” Lang said.

In a paper published last month, Lang and his colleagues looked at five statewide and tribal initiatives that started the process of creating pilot projects screening for trauma in the child welfare system.

Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, the research effort looks at lessons learned from state child welfare systems that rolled out demonstration grants awarded in 2011. This group includes Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana and North Carolina, though other states that have begun screening children involved with the child welfare system for trauma.

Children in the child welfare system are far more likely than other children to experience trauma in the form of abuse and neglect as well as traumatic events in the system, such as a child welfare investigation and separation from caregivers. Although there was some variation in how states measured trauma, the trauma screening initiatives unsurprisingly found high rates of trauma exposure.

Continue reading

Curiosity and reciprocity: Engaging community in the ACE & resilience movement

In an all-day workshop that Laura Porter was leading with community organizers and parents, she told the story of a woman from the Congo who had to leave her homeland. Before the woman left, she had a dream about living in the United States.

The woman said she imagined opening her door, letting her children run free, hearing them laugh and play. She envisioned people asking one another, “How are you?” without any compulsion to evade by answering, “Fine. I’m fine.” And, she added, “I could go with my children to the store and not have to be afraid that they would be arrested for being black.”

Porter was struck by the woman’s words—a vision of safety and belonging that is rarely voiced out loud. “As we’re engaging people, that dream is just under the surface,” says Porter. “When we touch on that, we touch on something very powerful: the core values…that go beyond political strife or individual experience. We can touch an aspirational world.”

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team in Manchester, NH, helps children grapple with trauma, violence, addicted parents

_MG_8113

Angela Delyani, community health worker; Mariah Cahill, crisis services advocate; and Sgt. Matthew Larochelle knock on the door of a family with children who witnessed a domestic violence incident just days before.

______________________________

An often-overlooked aspect of the opioid epidemic that has exploded across the U.S. in recent years is how often the abuse of heroin or prescription opiates is accompanied by domestic violence. This is tragic enough for the adults involved, but it’s a ticking time bomb for children who are exposed to these adversities, raising their risk for future drug use and multiple health and mental health conditions. Here’s how one community is trying to address the problem.

Police officers and emergency dispatchers are a pretty tough bunch but about three years ago, 911 operators in Manchester, NH, began noticing an uptick of an exceptionally distressing call—from children reporting the overdose of their parents.

Continue reading

Explaining the symptoms of PTSD or C-PTSD

Author’s Note: It took me over a month to write this because simply describing what it is like to struggle with the symptoms of C-PTSD resulted in triggering fear, anxiety, and flashbacks.  I persisted with this narrative because I want people who have never experienced the complexities of this illness to have a better understanding of what someone with PTSD or C-PTSD might be trying to manage.  If you personally struggle with anxiety, have PTSD or C-PTSD, or you are triggered by descriptions of fear or trauma, you should not read this.  It is hard to read. It was hard to write.

In the car today, a good friend (I rarely leave the house without someone with me) asked me if I had looked at the condominiums in town for potential rentals when I was in the middle of my housing search last year.  I had, and he asked what I had thought of them and why I had not opted to live there. I told him that the basement in one I looked at

Continue reading

Rights relinquished: How 25 hours became 21 years for Jerome Dixon

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

On July 25th, 1990, the course of Jerome Dixon’s life changed forever. After 25 hours of interrogation, the then 17-year-old Oakland youth would find himself sentenced to decades in prison.

As California state legislators now ponder a bill that would change the way law enforcement officers are able to question juveniles, the fallout from that day continues to haunt Dixon, now 44 and living in Los Angeles.

“Even to this day, I still can’t sleep a full night. I’m waking up two or three hours into my sleeping,” he said. “Why is that? That’s because of what happened to me in that interrogation room.”

Alone, and pinned into the corner of a dim police interrogation room, Dixon felt small and powerless on that summer night, trying to find some way out of his desperate situation.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: