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Kentucky is ranked 14th in childhood trauma; a coalition called Bloom Kentucky has formed to pursue state policies to change that

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Kentucky is ranked 14th in childhood trauma;  a coalition called Bloom Kentucky has formed to pursue state policies to change that

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A collaboration of 31 grant-making organizations across Kentucky has launched an initiative to focus on state policy changes to prevent and lessen the impacts of childhood trauma, also called Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs.

Barry Allen, President and Treasurer of The Gheens Foundation, an instigator of the Bloom Kentucky coalition, said it will push statewide grantmaking organizations out of their comfort zone and actively push them to advocate for policy changes to prevent and reduce ACEs.

“Each of you and your organizations, through this initiative, is giving current and future generations of ELA children and families cause for hope,” Allen said in the Aug. 4 announcement.

ACEs are traumatic or stressful events that occur before the age of 18, such as abuse or neglect, substance use problems in the home, or separation from a parent due to incarceration. More than one in five Kentucky children – 22% – have experienced at least two ACEs, ranking it 14th in the state in the nation.

ACEs can have lifelong effects on health and well-being. They are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, substance use problems in adulthood, and can limit education, job opportunities, and earning potential.

It’s easy to think that the issues affecting ACEs are too complex to address, but this coalition “absolutely rejects that notion,” said Terry Brooks, CEO of Kentucky Youth Advocates, the lead organization for the Bloom Kentucky Initiative.

“ACEs can have multigenerational impacts, which means we need holistic and multigenerational solutions,” Brooks said in a press release. “Systemic policy change can influence all Kentucky communities to foster opportunities for children and families to thrive. We urge our state legislators to think upstream and prioritize policies and investments that prevent these traumatic experiences from happening in the first place. place”.

Brooks emphasized that the work to implement these policies will require persistence, saying this is not a “microwave proposal” but rather a “crock pot effort.” Organizers said they would announce their political priorities for the 2022 General Assembly this fall.

Bloom Kentucky honored three Kentucky leaders for their historic efforts to address ACEs: Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a healthy Kentucky, for “being pioneers in this effort”; State Health Secretary Eric Friedlander, who was the first to “hit the pulpit” on this issue; and Senator Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, for his efforts to bring trauma-informed attention to schools following the 2018 shootings at Marshall County High School.

Wise said the issues that contribute to ACEs are not defined as rural or urban, but rather “Commonwealth issues,” and said he was committed to working with Democratic lawmakers and the governor. Andy Beshear on the policies on the School Safety Resilience Act and ACE.

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