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Southern Kenai Peninsula ACEs Connection (AK)

This group is dedicated to actualizing a Southern Kenai Peninsula, Alaskan community that cultivates healthy relationships and resilient families free of violence and substance abuse.

Recent Blog Posts

Behavioral health means resilience and well-being []

By Cathy Giessel, Anchorage Daily News, May 2, 2021

Alaskans love to fish! Already, trips to favorite fishing places are being planned, and dreams of big catches dreamed.

So, imagine standing on the shore of your favorite river when suddenly you see a person being swept downstream, thrashing to keep their head above water. We would, in an instant, make every effort to rescue that person and get them on solid, safe ground.

Let me connect this drowning person to problems our community experiences: crime, homelessness and Alaska’s poor reading scores.

[Please click here to read more.]

“Why does this affect so many people?” (Pro Publica)

By Adriana Gallardo, Nadia Sussman and Agnes Chang, ProPublica, and Kyle Hopkins and Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, June 1, 2020.

Alaska has the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation. These women and men did not choose to be violated, but they now choose to speak about what happened.

ALASKA HAS the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation, nearly four times the national average. About one third of women in Alaska have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Yet it is a secret so steeped into everyday life that to discuss it is to disrupt the norm.

These 29 women and men did not choose to be violated, but they now are choosing to speak about what happened to them.

Last year, the Anchorage Daily News partnered with ProPublica to investigatesexual violence in Alaska, and explore why the situation isn’t getting

[Please click here to read more.]

Alive and Well: Moving Missouri Toward Grass-Roots and System-Wide Change

On the eastern edge of Missouri, leaders of the Alive and Well network had generated a robust media campaign to help people understand the impact of trauma and toxic stress on health and well-being. There was a monthly column in an African-American newspaper, spots about toxic stress and resilience on urban radio stations and weekly public service features on the NBC affiliate, with physicians, clergy and teachers advocating ways to “be alive and well.”

Two hundred and fifty miles to the west, a similar cross-sector coalition, Resilient KC, was sponsoring workshops, hosting a learning collaborative and recruiting community “ambassadors” who could bring the science of ACEs and resilience to clients, colleagues and policy-makers in business, the armed services, education, justice and health care.

On both sides of the state, those networks saw their grant funding trickling to an end. So they decided to join forces, share strategies and form a not-for-profit organization that could spread the impact of their work across Missouri and the region.

Resilient KC—a partnership between a pre-existing network, Trauma Matters Kansas City (TMKC), and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce—was one of 14 locales to receive a two-year Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) grant. The work drew interest from the local arts community, the Kansas City Royals and the police; Captain Darren Ivey became a tireless champion, consulting with other police departments and designing trainings on vicarious trauma.

But as the MARC grant drew to a close in 2017, Resilient KC leaders thought about how, “if we really want to sustain the movement and think about where we are going in Kansas City, we need to be a not-for-profit,” says Marsha Morgan, who helped launch TMKC while working as chief operating officer of Truman Medical Center’s department of behavioral health.

Members of the Kansas City Public Schools community assess their progress in moving through the stages of change outlined in the Missouri Model for Trauma Informed Schools, developed by the Missouri Trauma Roundtable and the Alive and Well Communities Education Leaders Work Group, with the support of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and America’s Promise Alliance. Photo courtesy of Alive and Well Communities.

Meanwhile, leaders of Alive and Well St. Louis, under the auspices of the regional health commission, knew that their mission—increasingly focused on racial equity—had grown beyond the bounds of a health-focused organization.

“We kept turning to our partners in Kansas City to ask, ‘How do we do this?’ We shared information and expertise. We were both trying to solve the same problems,” says Jennifer Brinkmann, now president of Alive and Well Communities, launched as a 501c3 in early 2018.

Alive and Well built a structure that reflects the network’s aim to make change both at the “hyper-local” and institutional levels. To accomplish that, the network recruited 500 “ambassadors,” community volunteers who attend a two-hour trauma awareness training and elect a steering committee— one in St. Louis, and one in Kansas City—to set priorities and drive the work locally.

In St. Louis, Alive and Well also hires neighborhood residents—individuals who are interviewed, trained and paid an hourly rate to deliver workshops on trauma, self-care and community care.

A 13-member volunteer board of directors—including the two co-chairs of each steering committee—holds financial responsibility for Alive and Well. They include representatives from academia, health care, human services and the faith-based community.

Alive and Well also joined the national Building Community Resilience Collaborative—a means of having an impact on federal legislation, such as a recent appropriations bill that included guidance to address health disparities and the trauma of racism.

For Ave Stokes, director of Kansas City programming for Alive and Well, listening and flexibility are key to engaging a racially and economically diverse range of residents. That may mean changing the place or time of events—locating them in different neighborhoods, holding them in the afternoon or evening to accommodate people with varied work schedules. “Let people in communities tell you what works for them,” he says.

Stokes cites the success of the “impact series,” discussions in Kansas City public libraries focusing on the links between trauma and child abuse, domestic violence or black maternal health; the sessions are meant to inform and empower listeners to take action. Between 80 and 250 people have attended each one.

Leaders on both sides of the state note the added value of cross-sector efforts: when schools in Johnson County brought together representatives from public health, education, law enforcement and mental health to focus on the needs of high-risk students, or when the Kansas City police department added five social workers to its staff, or when Alive and Well hosted a 2019 convening of 200 people to hammer out a common vision and language for building trauma-informed communities across the region.

One ongoing challenge, says Brinkmann, is keeping up with the demand for training and assistance that goes beyond a baseline understanding of ACEs and trauma. Alive and Well provides that support—in fact, such paid consulting work helps fund the network’s community-based efforts—but the work is time-intensive and can be out of reach for the cash-strapped organizations that may need it most.

“There are some communities in rural Missouri that are saying, ‘We need Alive and Well here,’ but we don’t have the bandwidth to provide support at that level,” she says. “I think for the work to have the impact we all want it to have, we’re going to have to get into policy change work. Teaching people about ACEs is just scratching the surface.”

Morgan agrees. “We need to spend time in an organization to help them put in the structure, to really help them understand and provide intervention at a different level. We need to move from awareness to responsiveness.”

She, Brinkmann and Stokes would like to see more involvement from the corporate and business sector, from justice and probation systems, and from primary care health practitioners. Still, they are heartened by Alive and Well’s achievements: 251 trainings, reaching more than 5,000 participants, in 2019; the publication of the Missouri Model for Trauma-Informed Schools; surveys indicating that 99% of attendees in St. Louis community empowerment workshops said the trainings would change their behavior.

“For me, it’s extremely rewarding to be in community with our ambassadors—people who care so deeply about making their communities better,” says Brinkmann. “It’s in those moments that I find hope that we can get there, collectively.”

Anndee Hochman is a journalist and author whose work appears regularly in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Broad Street Review and in other print and online venues. She teaches poetry and creative non-fiction in schools, senior centers, detention facilities and at writers' conferences.

This article originally appeared on Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) on April 28, 2020. MARC provides tools and inspiration—by networks, for networks—using the science of ACEs to build a just, healthy and resilient world. Visit for more.

Mining the “lessons learned” from trauma legislation successes

R to L:  Jeff Hild, Rep. Geran Tarr, Afomeia Tesfai
The planned agenda for the “Advancing Trauma-Informed Public Policy through Effective Advocacy” workshop at the 2018 ACEs Conference: Action to Access went out the window when an unexpected guest— California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, MD—was invited to open the session and join the other participants in lively exchanges about their advocacy experiences and perspectives on hot button issues such as parental separation and economJoaquin Arambula, MDic supports for families.  As a physician, Arambula said that the trauma caused by placing people in cages at the border violated the principle in medicine “First, do no harm.”  In the question and answer segment, he praised the strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect as outlined in a CDC technical package for distilling and elevating the fundamental supports needed by families to thrive. 

With the goal of strengthening participants’ understanding of the policy development and implementation process, panelists used two cases studies—one national and one state—to demystify the intricacies of the legislative process.

Jeff Hild, policy director, Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, presented a case study of how trauma-informed provisions first included the Heitkamp-Dubin “Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act, S. 774” made their way into the recently passed opioid legislation (H.R. 6).  (See this article in ACEs Connection for a description of this process). I then presented an overview of trends in state legislation, providing a context for the second case study on a major policy victory in Alaska.  Some of the information on legislation came the National Conference of State Legislatures’ (NCSL) tracking of bills related to adverse childhood experiences.  This resource—available on its website—reflects how the issue of trauma-informed policy has gained traction in recent years with both legislators and the public.

Rep. Geran Tarr, who was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 2012, said working to make Alaska trauma-informed is a passion for her because of the district she represents and her own personal history.  She described her district as low-income, diverse, and too familiar with gun violence. She also said—in her first public declaration—that her ACE score is either 9 or 10.  If the ACE includes jail as well as prison, her score is 10.

Tarr presented the featured state level case study on how SB 105 was enacted in the 2018 session to require state policy to:

“acknowledge and take into account the principles of early childhood and youth brain development and, whenever possible, consider the concepts of early adversity, toxic stress, childhood trauma, and the promotion of resilience through protective relationships, supports, self-regulation, and services.”

Tarr described how another bill, House Concurrent Resolution 2, appeared to be failing for the second try when a last minute opportunity emerged to add the language to a bill that was moving through the legislature.  The end result is that the language is now in statute, giving it more authority than if passed as a resolution.  Already, state agency heads have met to discuss how the provision wiAlaska Resilience Initiative reportll be implemented.

The advocacy of the Alaska Resilience Initiative (ARI) in this legislative victory was also included in Rep. Tarr’s case study and is detailed in an ACES Connection story on the passage of SB 105 by ARI Director Laura Norton Cruz.  A policy brief, written by Andrea Blanch, PhD, “Toward a Trauma-Informed, Resilient, and Culturally-Responsive Alaska,” is also available on the ARI website, along with a detailed description of how the SB 105 victory was achieved

The original plan for the workshop included roundtable discussions with suggested topics such as how to address a specific policy goal, how to develop their advocacy skills, or get organized to undertake legislative action.  The session moderator, Afomeia Tesfai, policy and advocacy manager, Center for Youth Wellness, encouraged participants to build on what they learned at the workshop to develop local strategies with other advocates in their communities.  A handout to guide these discussions was provided. 

Many of the workshop strategies and specifics of legislative initiatives also were covered in a webinar series—State Policy Approaches to Address Childhood Adversity— sponsored by 4CA (the California Campaign to Counter Childhood Adversity) archived here.  A final webinar will be announced soon that addresses specific strategies for California. 

Resolve to connect with others more []

Tis the season of resolutions. I always hate to see how people start off with such positivity and idealism, plan to be stronger and healthier, and so often end up with that horrible stain of failure and resignation. Every year people fail to stop smoking. Fail to do enough exercise. Fail to lose weight. Then out come the excuses.

But I would like to throw an idea out there. What if no excuse was necessary? What if we stopped punishing ourselves and instead looked to real solutions? Real solutions that lie in understanding brain science and human behavior?

In the 1990s there was a study of more than 17,000 people done by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control that looked at how intense trauma and toxic stress during childhood leads to health problems as adults. Known as the “ACEs Study” (Adverse Childhood Experiences), it has become a defining study on how health professionals see individual health risk. We can easily imagine that having a lot of ACEs increases the likelihood of doing drugs, smoking, drinking and doing all those things that lead to health problems. Bad behavior goes along with a bad childhood, right?

But one interesting part of the ACEs Study is that the majority of the participants were white and college educated. We can’t stereotype that this applies to drug-ridden alleyways, we are talking about middle class Main Street.

Another interesting fact revealed in this study was that ACEs led to more than just addictive or bad behavior. In this huge group of more than 17,000 people it became quite apparent that there was a relationship between the number of ACEs a person had and their likelihood of having serious health problems that would otherwise seem unrelated, like heart disease and cancer.

Guess what the two leading causes of death are on the southern Kenai Peninsula? Heart disease and cancer. Just sayin’.

To continue reading this op-ed by Kyra Wagner, coordinator of Sustainable Homer and a member of the MAPP steering committee, go to:

Week of events aim to show benefits of mindfulness []

Take a breath. Notice the feeling of your breath. Take another. According to medical researchers, you have just done something profoundly positive for your physical and mental health.

Over the next week, everyone from parents to health care providers will have a chance to learn more about the potential benefits of mindfulness thanks to a series of workshops and presentations organized by South Peninsula Hospital. The series will feature both local presenters knowledgeable about mindfulness as well as Dr. Jerry Braza, a leading voice in the field of health education and mindfulness and author of two books on the topic.

....On Friday, Sept. 23, local Dr. Rob Downey, who runs the hospital’s popular Functional Medicine Clinic will present a discussion of mind, body, well-being, the anatomy of the present moment and mindful coping strategies in room 202 of the Kachemak Bay Campus. Food is provided and the event is by donation.
Finally, wrapping up the week, on Saturday, Sept. 24 the hospital and participating partners will present “Day of Mindfulness: Supporting a Mindful Self and Community” at Ageya Wilderness Education Center. Banks said no prior experience with mindfulness is required. The day will focus on walking, listening, movement, meditation and deep relaxation. There is a sliding scale of $20 to $45 per person and scholarships are available. Participants are asked to pack a lunch.

To continue reading this article by Carey Restino, go to: 

Role models can change a community []

Role models are truly vital to a healthy and resilient community. I’m not just saying that, that is science. Luckily, this community has so many wonderful people with amazing talents and impressive stories that it would be impossible to share them all.  

We are also lucky that there are certain events, like the recent Women of Distinction Awards, that give us the chance to honor some of these local icons. Interestingly, the recipient of the Lifelong Learner Award this weekend, Linda Chamberlain, could tell you about the science behind how role models can make a community resilient.

Linda has been working on the forefront with researchers around the country who have been clearly demonstrating how the effects of childhood trauma can follow a person into adulthood and manifest as seemingly unrelated disease, illness and social hardships.

I attended one of Linda’s presentations here in Homer myself and I was stunned.  Keep in mind that I am more likely to know what makes a carrot in my garden grow than what makes a human tick, but even with my lack of medical background her words were clear.

To continue reading this column by Kyra Wagner, go to:

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