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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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