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Rachel Huggins

Communications Manager, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

ACEs Champion Spotlight: Kings County – The Power of Community to Prevent Toxic Stress

July 14, 2021 | Mental Health Treatment | Comments
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When it comes to trauma-informed care, California is leading the nation in fostering best practices and addressing statewide screening to reduce adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Located in the Central Valley, Kings County ACEs Network of Care is spearheading efforts to advance trauma prevention through a community-oriented lens. Linda Baggio, MPH, DrPH, program manager for the California Health Collaborative shared her thoughts about the driving force behind this commitment.

Forty-six percent of Kings County residents have an ACEs score of at least one or more. What work is being done to reduce this disparity?

Within our Network of Care and peer-to-peer engagement events hosted since October 2020, we hosted 13 guest-speaker guided educational sessions covering topics ranging from:

  • Opportunities and challenges for health equity in the movement to prevent and recognize adverse childhood experiences.
  • Best practices in safeguarding the physiological state of women during pregnancy.
  • Accessing ACEs screening in pediatric primary care for both providers and their staff.

The pandemic really changed the way we connected with our stakeholders – Kings County residents and community organizations as well as local medical and social service providers. Although sessions were hosted online using the Zoom platform, we connected more closely with organizations in Kings County to inform the awareness of ACEs in our rural community and provide tailored support regarding their needs for additional training and resources.

When providing trainings through a trauma-informed lens, how do you ensure community action?

Becoming trauma-informed starts with understanding the importance of patient-centered care.

The creation of our highly-anticipated ACEs prevention toolkit in May 2021 was vital to giving a blueprint for organizations and partners to establish trauma-informed processes and integrate their services to support providers as they screen, treat, and heal in support of California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris,’ MD, bold goal to cut ACEs in half in one generation.

In a Network of Care session hosted in June, we allowed our community members to screen themselves. We also provided a resiliency questionnaire and they appreciated having that power to see their resilience score as a child and what it is now. This activity, although best provided in a clinical setting with supporting resources at hand, helped empower our community with the understanding that their own ACE score helps them to connect with compassion and respond with respect to meet the needs of our community.

When we consider the resiliency factors in our lives, we realize our strengths and understand that there is hope. Utilizing that lens of resilience when we connect with individuals, children and families helps us to shift the focus from “what has happened to you” to “what strengths do you bring to bear in the face of adversity”.

“A Network of Care is a group of interdisciplinary health, education and human service professionals, community members and organizations that support adults, children and families by providing access to evidence-based “buffering” resources and supports that help to prevent, treat and heal the harmful consequences of toxic stress.”

Systems change fosters true collaboration across networks. How are you driving this forward in the future?

We strive to motivate clients, from managed care organizations and health clinics to community-based organizations, tribal communities, faith-based communities, to feel empowered to support people who have experienced adversity and childhood trauma. This includes assessing implicit racial and medical bias with a trauma-informed lens and understanding how long-sustained inequities and exposure to racism and discrimination are risk factors for toxic stress.

We have the power to cut ACEs in half in one generation – and in Kings County we are pushing forward with a simple message of resiliency: Understanding and instilling hope and passion is key to up taking the work and strengthening the capacity of health providers to screen, treat and heal toxic stress.

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