Community Trauma-Informed Healing Practices: Legislative Briefing on the Importance of Healing Adverse Childhood Experiences
Renowned medical experts, community advocates, and youth leaders briefed legislators on the effects of adverse childhood experiences on youth and effective trauma-informed healing practices and programs. Pictured above: Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Tahira Cunningham (California Pan-Ethnic Health Network).
Sacramento, CA – The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color hosted a legislative briefing this afternoon on the effectiveness of community healing practices that consider childhood trauma.
The briefing, entitled “Trauma-Informed Community Health and Healing Practices,” was co-sponsored by the California Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, chaired by Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the California Latino Legislative Caucus, and the California Legislative Black Caucus.
Trauma can have a devastating effect, leading to stress and chronic illness. According to the Sierra Health Foundation, up to 93% of youth in the criminal justice system have experienced trauma; research shows that when young people experience violence as children, they are more likely to repeat that violence when they are older.
“When we talk about healing the effects of chronic adversity and trauma, we’re talking about strengthening families and communities,” said Robert Phillips, Director of Health Programs at Sierra Health Foundation, during opening remarks.
According to The California Endowment, boys and young men of color disproportionately experience trauma and adversity at an early age—they are more likely than other children to witness or be the victims of violence, live in poverty, or face incarceration.
“This is an issue that transcends all races, all genders,” said Assemblymember Bradford, “but we have seen the greatest impact on boys and men of color.”
The briefing coincided with today’s introduction of California Assembly Concurrent Resolution 155, co-authored by Assemblymembers Raul Bocanegra (D-Los Angeles), Rob Bonta, (D-Alameda), Bradford, Joan Buchanan (D-San Ramon), and Ian Calderon (D-City of Industry). ACR 155 urges the Governor to reduce children’s exposure to toxic stress and address it by investing in preventive health care and mental health and wellness interventions.
Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, the Founder and CEO of Center of Youth Wellness and a pediatrician in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, testified that people who had four or more “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) were two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from heart or liver disease as adults. Children with six or more ACEs were three times more likely to suffer from lung cancer as adults and had a life expectancy of 20 fewer years.
“There is a biologic mechanism. We understand this. It’s not a mystery,” said Dr. Burke-Harris. “When you have kids exposed to chronic adversity, neurologically, it turns down the functioning of the pre-frontal cortex. And then we sit there and ask, ‘why are these schools underperforming?’”
Jean Eason, Jr. was one of four youth who described how programs in their communities, such as the Center for Youth Wellness, Youth ALIVE!, and the National Compadres Network, helped them recover from trauma.
“Trauma is probably on every corner in East Oakland,” Eason, Jr. said. “We need to spread the message that trauma is real, it’s deep – it almost ruined my life. We need to do something to help others who don’t know how to deal with it.”
Investing in young men of color can reap huge dividends for California. According to a 2007 study by the California Dropout Research Project at UC Santa Barbara, African-American and Latino men graduating high school generate $681,130 and $451,360 more per person in additional dollars for the state than those who do not graduate high school. This is due to increased tax revenue and economic productivity as well as decreased costs associated with poor health or incarceration.
“When other communities experience trauma, such as Columbine or Isla Vista, we see a major response,” testified Hector Sanchez-Flores, Executive Director of the National Compadres Network. “Yet, in our communities, where there is persistent, daily trauma, we don’t see the same investment. This sends the message that our children are ‘less than’.”
Assemblymember Bonta closed the briefing by discussing legislative efforts to consider trauma, such as AB 1629 (Bonta), which would support physical and emotional recovery for Californians injured by gun or other violence by extending peer counseling services and reimbursement through the Victims Compensation Fund.
“AB 1629, which is sponsored by Youth ALIVE!, cleared the Assembly floor yesterday,” said Bonta. “This bill was a direct result of discussions that came out of a similar hearing last year on gun violence in Oakland. We have to continue working together on these issues.”
The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color is a coalition of change agents committed to improving the life chances of California’s boys and young men of color. The Alliance includes youth, community organizations, foundations and systems leaders – like education, public health and law enforcement officials. For more information and to see a list of Alliance local anchors and state policy partners, please visit: http://www.allianceforbmoc.org/
The California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color was formed in 2012 to respond to the pressing needs of young men of color in California, where 70 percent of youth identify as people of color. In the 2013 session, the Committee continued efforts to advance common sense school discipline, design a more comprehensive approach to school safety, and facilitate the implementation of the local control funding formula to ensure that young men of color can access opportunity in their neighborhoods starting at an early age.