Congressional briefing addresses public policy to improve response to ACEs

Room view with Senators Heitkamp & Durbin.jpg

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.

In addition to joining forces to raise awareness of the impact of ACEs, Senators  Heitkamp and Durbin are drafting legislation based on a framework they have shared widely with stakeholders, other members of Congress, and federal agency officials. A first draft of the legislation may be ready to share as early as this week.

The purpose of the briefing was to provide an overview of public policy initiatives to build capacity to prevent ACEs, build resilience, and implement trauma-informed approaches for children, families, and communities.

Sen. Heitkamp talked about her conversations with colleagues in which she often highlights analysis demonstrating that people with six or more ACEs have a life expectancy 20 years less than individuals with no ACEs. She emphasized the need to take a public health approach to addressing childhood trauma. Whether the issue is community violence or the generational trauma experienced by Native Americans, she said, “the answer lies in preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) but also treating and understanding how we treat ACEs because we have a whole population that now falls in that category.”

Sen. Durbin’s interest in ACEs originated in the gun violence in several cities around the country, most notably in Chicago. In 2016, Chicago has seen more than 700 murders (including the grandson of Congressman Danny Davis from Illinois). Durbin explained that he first came to the issue of ACEs by examining the role of guns in community violence, but has since broadened his perspective to include the root causes of violence. He recalled an answer a counselor from the Cook County Juvenile Justice Center gave him when asked about what kind of ACEs they found among kids receiving services at the center and the response is “everything”. Children are receiving diagnoses of depression, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia. Perhaps more sobering, analysis demonstrates that 92 percent of Chicago children have been victims of or witness to violence.

Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Durbin, Christinia Bethel & Joe Barnhart (Left to right)
(l to r) Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Durbin, Christina Bethell and Joe Barnhardt 

While these statistics are jarring, Durbin expressed optimism that “several federal efforts” to address trauma should receive bipartisan support and held up interventions such as “Bounce Back” to help traumatized children recover from trauma. He acknowledged the work of panelist Dr. Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, that includes training in “Bounce Back.”

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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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Rural Oregon county integrates ACEs screening in school-based trauma-informed health centers

The Combined Child & Family and School-Based Clinical Team. From left: Ratchet; Elizabeth Fitzgerald, clinical supervisor SBHC; Kelsey Dunlap, clinician; Amy Richardson, clinician; Misty Groom, Safe-School assessor; Tracey Sanders, administrative assistant; Janice Garceau, program manager; Maryanne McDonnell, clinical supervisor; Jill Montecucco, clinician; Marie Jackson, SBHC clinician; Jodi Love, clinician; Jaymie Kaczmarek, SBHC clinician; Jennifer Noble, SBHC clinician; Tracey Colocicco, clinician; Deb Stone, clinician.

The Combined Child & Family and School-Based Clinical Team. From left: Ratchet; Elizabeth Fitzgerald, clinical supervisor SBHC; Kelsey Dunlap, clinician; Amy Richardson, clinician; Misty Groom, Safe-School assessor; Tracey Sanders, administrative assistant; Janice Garceau, program manager; Maryanne McDonnell, clinical supervisor; Jill Montecucco, clinician; Marie Jackson, SBHC clinician; Jodi Love, clinician; Jaymie Kaczmarek, SBHC clinician; Jennifer Noble, SBHC clinician; Tracey Colocicco, clinician; Deb Stone, clinician.

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For the last two years, nearly all students referred for mental health services in seven school-based health centers in Deschutes County, OR, have taken the 10-question adverse childhood experiences (ACE) survey.

It didn’t take long to realize why this was good idea.

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Closed adoption law separates California teen from her family

Jordan Rodriguez with Evan Low, California  Assemblymember __________________

By Jeremy Loudenback,  ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

Every holiday season, 17-year-old Jordain Rodriguez sends a note to two families she barely knows with a simple wish: She’d like to see her nieces and nephews.

Around the holidays and on each of the children’s birthdays, she writes emails to the two families who adopted her family members, asking for pictures, any recent updates and a chance to talk to them.

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State rep and family advocate, Rena Moran, envisions a trauma-informed Minnesota

MN State Rep Rena MoranMinnesota has the potential to become a trauma-informed state if the hard work is done to raise awareness of ACEs and the impact of toxic stress on brain development, says third-term state representative Rena Moran (D-St. Paul). Moran led the effort to have a resolution—similar to ones passed in Wisconsin and Californiaread in the legislature in March to educate lawmakers and the public about ACEs and related research.  Democrats and Republicans took turns reading the resolution.

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$2.2 Million initiative highlights trauma policy push

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

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Jennifer Jones

This month, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will kick off a multi-million initiative designed to help service providers translate scientific findings around child trauma, toxic stress and developmental brain science into public policy.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Canada-based Palix Foundation have committed $2.2 million over three years for the Alliance, a powerful membership group of youth service providers, to sub-grant to 15 participating nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada interested in leading child trauma-based reform. All sites will be funded $50,000 for two years, and a developmental evaluation will be conducted within the three-year period.

The “Change in Mind: Applying Neurosciences to Revitalize Communities” initiative is one of several recent efforts aimed at increasing the policy impact of trauma-related research.

According to Change in Mind Director Jennifer Jones, the 15 organizations will serve as leaders in their communities and across the public sector on how to apply trauma-related practices. While each organization may have a different set of policy and advocacy goals, they will share successful strategies with each other and participate with an outside organization to evaluate effectiveness. The initiative kicks off this month in Chicago with an organizing conference that will help develop collective goals to accompany the specific policy priorities of each site.

The moment is ripe, Jones said, for nonprofit service providers to take a leading role in encouraging adoption of trauma-informed practices.

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It’s time to support trauma-informed schools in Pennsylvania

APACapitolThe Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) of Pennsylvania has led us all,  in Pennsylvania and beyond, to a tipping point for educational equity – if the legislature endorses the BEHC detailed “fair funding” recommendations.

There’s no doubt that the task of the commission was daunting. Education funding concerns are very weighty and very high profile in Pennsylvania. House Bill 1738 set up the BEFC and tasked it to “develop a basic education funding formula and identify factors that may be used to determine the distribution of basic education funding among the school districts …”

The BEFC recommended factors required for fair funding.  Eight are included in a proposed formula and eight are recommended for consideration by the full General Assembly.

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