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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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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Perspectives on building healthy communities

National Policy Implications Panel

 (l to r) Dr. Garth Graham, president, Aetna Foundation; Wendy Ellis, project director, Building Community Resilience Collaborative, GWU; Stuart M. Butler, The Brookings Institution

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After decades of working at the national level on health and mental policy in Washington, DC, I find myself looking for ways to get involved locally—the closer to home the better, and the more tangible the work, the more gratifying. There has never been a better time to act locally, not just because of the polarized national scene, but because opportunities abound to really make a difference at the local level.

With this budding interest local involvement taking shape, I was eager see what lessons I could learn from a May 9th event titled “New directions for communities: How they can boost neighborhood health,” sponsored by the venerable organization The Brookings Institution, best known for leadership at the national and global levels.

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Two studies aim to bring funding and attention to neurofeedback in the treatment of PTSD

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“Almost half the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma, according to a new survey on adverse childhood experiences by the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This translates into an estimated 34,825,978 children nationwide, say the researchers who analyzed the survey data. Jane Ellen Stevens, ACEsTooHigh.com

Research from the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) shows that people who suffer early childhood neglect and abuse get sick more often throughout their lives and with more serious illnesses than the average population. They also become addicted at much higher rates and are far more likely to attempt and commit suicide. As a result of all of these factors, as a cohort, people who have experienced an overwhelming amount of abuse and neglect as children will die 20 years ahead of their peers.

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Putting Alaska Native hopes, voices at center of state’s ACEs movement

Lisa Wade is the Health, Education, and Social Services Director, tribal court judge, and elected tribal council member for the Alaska Native Village of Chickaloon.

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Before the Alaska Resilience Initiative could push forward on any of its goals—to grow a sustainable statewide network; to educate all Alaskans on brain development, adverse childhood experiences, and resilience-building; and to support organizational, policy and practice change to address trauma—its leaders had to start by listening.

Specifically, they had to listen to Alaska Native people.

Alaska Native people comprise nearly one-fifth of the state’s population, but historically their voices have been largely excluded from decision-making about social services, education and behavioral health.

That’s why Laura Norton-Cruz, program director of the Alaska Resilience Initiative, partnered with First Alaskans Institute and the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council in a May 2016 gathering that put Native perspectives, customs, history and hopes at the center.

That gathering of about 30 people “was setting a tone for the whole state that the voices of Alaska Native people matter in this process,” Norton-Cruz said. The goal was to seek input that could guide the Alaska Resilience Initiative, shape the curriculum for ACE/resilience trainers and frame a more inclusive and equitable approach to the work.

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