Thanks to national pioneers like California’s Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, CALM’s work to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and heal individuals from childhood trauma remains at the forefront of public health efforts.
The term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) comes from the 1998 landmark study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente. It describes 10 categories of adversities experienced by age 18 years: abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), neglect (physical, emotional), and household challenges (incarceration of household members, or growing up in a household with mental illness, substance dependence, parental absence due to separation or divorce, or intimate partner violence).
The ACE study is considered one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being, with data gathered from over 17,000 participants over a two-year period. Data from this study indicated that ACEs were prevalent, with about two-thirds of the participants indicating they had experienced at least one ACE. If one ACE was experienced, there was 87% likelihood of at least one additional ACE. The outcome? The higher the number of ACEs someone endorsed, the higher the risk of experiencing poor behavioral and physical health outcomes in adulthood.
Dr. Harris, a pediatrician by trade, has been integral in providing medical professionals across California with the tools and knowledge to integrate ACE science into their practice. Specifically, she has spearheaded efforts to incorporate ACE screenings into all pediatric settings. Screening, as well as prevention and early intervention, are key to begin the healing process and to reduce the prevalence of negative health impacts for those who have experienced a significant level of trauma. While this knowledge has been primarily useful for healthcare providers, its core philosophy is important to a broader audience. So, Dr. Harris has developed, along with numberstory.org, an awareness and outreach campaign to educate the general public about the importance of understanding ACEs, as well as understanding ways one can mitigate possible effects of toxic stress often caused by ACEs.
Guided by the evidence from the landmark ACE study and Dr. Harris’ groundbreaking work, CALM has augmented services and implemented strategic partnerships to address ACEs and develop resiliency for the entire community in recent years. In partnership with Cottage Health, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC), and others, CALM is pioneering trauma-informed interventions in healthcare settings across the county. This includes efforts to screen for ACEs as part of Well Baby pediatric visits Countywide, a multi-year research project to provide therapeutic support for NICU families, and extensive trauma-informed training for community partners.
“When we talk about trauma and early prevention, CALM’s trained therapeutic staff are experts at supporting children and families to change the trajectory of early trauma and toxic stress. Reaching families and intervening to disrupt the long-term negative impacts on health outcomes takes a coordinated approach across multiple sectors and partners. CALM’s interventions are a crucial part of this response” stated Katy Bazylewicz, Cottage Health Vice President Marketing and Population Health.
Through these collaborative efforts, CALM is transforming the community through a system change approach. CALM is reaching beyond its walls to implement therapeutic practices and embed clinicians in various settings to meet families where they are.
The next wave of the pandemic will require a tremendous investment in mental health response as we fully address the impacts of this collective trauma. This past year, the community’s resiliency has been tested. CALM’s client base has faced economic and financial stressors, increased anxiety, depression, and intimate partner violence. These stressors contribute to the growing mental health needs of individuals, children, and families in the region. CALM is prepared to meet the needs of the community head on and will continue to be the vital resource for ACEs awareness and prevention for as long as it takes.
When a child experiences trauma, our entire community is impacted. To combat the effects of childhood trauma, CALM is here to support families in need of strength and healing. CALM’s evidence-based programs represent a continuum of care that addresses the safety and wellbeing of children and families across Santa Barbara County. Approximately 2,000 clients receive individual and group therapy through CALM’s clinics in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc and thousands more receive community-based education and mental health supports. With a 50-year history of serving families in our region, a staff of exceptionally qualified clinicians, and meaningful partnerships with complementary agencies and organizations, CALM is committed to preventing childhood trauma, healing children and families, and building resilient communities throughout Santa Barbara County. To learn more, visit calm4kids.org.
For more information about all of CALM’s services, please call 805-965-2376, or visit http://calm4kids.org.