Sacramento COE working to address adverse childhood experiences

The Sacramento County Office of Education is continuing years of efforts to address adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as a partner organization with WellSpace Health, which was recently awarded a $1 million ACEs Aware grant from the California Department of Health Care Services. 

ACEs are traumatic events that individuals experience before age 18 that affect them into adulthood. Examples of ACEs include experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse or neglect; growing up in a home environment with substance abuse or mental health problems; or experiencing family or parental separation. The third round of ACEs Aware funding focused on Preventing and Responding to ACE-Associated Health Conditions and Toxic Stress in Clinics through Community Engagement (PRACTICE). 

Besides building partnerships and identifying ways to fill gaps, another goal associated with the PRACTICE initiative is to “expand the workforce to fill these gaps and address toxic stress and ACE-Associated Health Conditions among Medi-Cal beneficiaries in a sustainable way,” according to ACEs Aware. 

Sacramento COE is no stranger to mental health supports work. In 2015, the LEA launched a pilot project funded by First 5 to connect at-risk families in transitional housing or homeless shelters to information about childhood development and screenings through the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, according to Christine M. Smith, the LEA’s Director I of Early Learning. The parent-administered screening offers families an idea if a child is on track with development and can be helpful in the early identification and intervention process. 

Additionally, family advocates assisted families with developing action plans and connecting them to local resources such as housing, transportation, further assessment for children, medical care or counseling. 

In 2017, Sacramento became a Help Me Grow affiliate. The program is centered on early identification and intervention to ensure families can navigate through complex systems that sometimes get in the way of securing support. 

In 2020, a one-year communication grant to amplify the importance of ACEs screenings and resources was awarded and in 2021, Sacramento COE received a $3 million Network of Care Implementation grant from the California Department of Health Care Services, in partnership with the Office of the California Surgeon General, to “build and strengthen a robust network of resources to respond to ACEs and toxic stress. SCOE will lead this multi-agency collaboration to implement the Sacramento County ACEs Aware Trauma-Informed Network of Care,” according to the LEA. 

By partnering with WellSpace, the work of the COE in this space can be further amplified.  

“The opportunity for the PRACTICE grant came up recently and we were not able to take a lead role in applying for that because it needed to be a medical clinic,” Smith said. WellSpace was able to fill that void. 

Sacramento COE will continue hosting ACEs Network of Care Collaborative meetings on a quarterly basis and attending statewide learning collaborative meetings. “It’s an opportunity for us to make sure there’s a relationship between education and early learning and the health care system so we can continue working together to support families instead of it going back to where it used to be — very siloed,” Smith said.