CIRCA director co-chairs Oklahoma Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care, releases strategy report
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
This week, the Oklahoma Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care released its strategy report that highlights how individuals, agencies and organizations can better coordinate services and implement best practices for the prevention and intervention of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
The three-year task force was created by mandate from the state legislature in 2018 after research showed that 28 percent of children in Oklahoma experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences. Children who experience ACEs are at a higher risk for behavioral and health related problems as adults including chronic disease, mental illness, work issues and time served in prison.
State Rep. Carol Bush said it’s time for a statewide, interdisciplinary system of care to address these issues and the ongoing health of children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The number of children experiencing multiple ACEs is increasing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic so the time to act is now. Research shows that more than half of Oklahoma’s children have already experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, and many will experience more before reaching adulthood,” Bush said.
ACEs can include child abuse, neglect and family dysfunction stemming from parental mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse, incarceration, divorce and domestic violence. These can result in problems as children grow up such as dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and poor physical and mental health.
Dr. Jennifer Hays-Grudo, Ph.D., co-chair of the task force and director of OSU’s Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Adversity (CIRCA), said serving on the task force has been eye opening
“I already know from statistics that Oklahoma has a high prevalence of adverse childhood experiences. What I learned co-chairing the task force is how many good programs are already in place and how dedicated the leaders in our government agencies and nonprofits are to addressing these problems,” Hays-Grudo said.
"There really is a tremendous opportunity to leverage existing programs through more coordination and communication."
The task force focused on effective trauma-informed prevention and intervention efforts when developing its report, which identified sustainable strategies to support both local and statewide initiatives that reduce children’s exposure to adversity and increase opportunities for resilience throughout the state.
Oklahoma has a history of implementing evidence-based programs and efforts that support children and families, but sustaining that work has been a challenge, especially in rural areas, said Annette Wisk Jacobi, task force co-chair and director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.
“Rural Oklahoma is struggling to get services. Virtual help is good, but it’s not perfect. We need to build back what we had,” Jacobi said. “The task force has worked to develop a structure, utilizing existing public-private collaborations, to assist with coordination, implementation, evaluation and funding. The goal is to maximize resources, assure that quality services are available, and duplication does not occur.”
Hays-Grudo said CIRCA has received funding from the Casey Family Foundation to hire a coordinator to expand upon existing state organizations, such as the Children’s State Advisory Workgroup, creating public-private partnerships to provide communication, training and resources throughout the state.
“By coordinating and leveraging our efforts, we can increase the effectiveness of existing programs and help people access resources that are already available. And by working together we can bring new resources to Oklahoma to address these issues,” she said. “We have the opportunity now, because of the focus on ACEs and the will to improve the wellbeing of children, to take huge steps in helping families and children recover from generations of adversity and trauma.”
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