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Building Stronger GA Communities Through Trauma-Informed Care

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Shanteya Hudson, Producer

Monday, June 12, 2023   

A group in Georgia is working to equip people and organizations to combat what are known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, the traumatic events in a child’s life that can affect them into adulthood.

They include violence, abuse and growing up in a household with mental health or substance abuse issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports they cause toxic stress, which can alter brain development and lead to chronic health problems.

Teresa Raetz, chief operating officer of the Gwinnett Coalition, said her group’s Resilient Gwinnett initiative zeros in on specific groups to promote safe and stable home environments, to keep Adverse Childhood Experiences from being passed to future generations.

“It’s not just something bad that happened when someone was five or six, or whatever age,” Raetz pointed out. “We want people to understand that the body keeps a record of what happens, and it can have lifelong impacts. So, healing that trauma is really critical in order to mitigate those health consequences.”

She noted Resilient Gwinnett provides community organizations and individuals with training on how to better understand trauma and resilience, and increase awareness of child sexual abuse, mental health first aid, and suicide prevention. According to the CDC, 61% of adults weathered at least one major trauma as kids, and 16% experienced four or more.

Raetz emphasized while such events can affect anyone, there are factors which can put some individuals and communities at higher risk, and stressed it is important to bring resources directly to those who may be most vulnerable.

“Poverty is a significant factor in creating Adverse Childhood Experiences, and so, we are able — through our data partner — to take a look at the different population statistics and different indicators, and see where there are some neighborhoods and areas where the risk of ACEs is higher,” Raetz said.

She added Resilient Gwinnett tackles the problems as community issues rather than individual concerns, and with proper resources, addressing them early, they can foster more resilient communities. 

Disclosure: The Gwinnett Coalition contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Civic Engagement, Health Issues, and Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story first appeared in Public News Service, a member-supported news site to engage, educate and advocate for the public interest.