Montana making a little headway to address ACEs in adults!

Recently, ChildWise Institute had worked hard with bi-partisan legislative leaders on a Bill to promote a pilot project based on the science of ACEs, toxic stress, and resilience. Unfortunately, it was tabled (read: failed).

ChildWise has been working with legislators for 6 years now (3 legislative sessions) that have wanted to use ACEs as a public policy issue and a legislative Bill. Those efforts have been unsuccessful so far. It’s something every state needs to accomplish — but I think there’s a problem. From my experience, I have yet to see anything ACEs that could be effective, appropriate legislation. Back in 2013, I was invited to meet with a legislator and another person with whom I work occasionally (Erin Butts). Representative Dunwell had attended a 40-minute ACEs presentation I did at the Capitol for legislators while the 2013 Session was in. I had about 25 people in the room, Rep. Dunwell was one of them, and so was Representative Karjala. ACEs hit both of them square in the face, as it does most folks. Rep. Dunwell was hot to create a Bill based on ACEs. Erin and I were asking her what she wanted to do/accomplish with this Bill, and Erin said something that I repeat often and agree with completely – “ACEs is about compassion, how do you legislate compassion?” Nevertheless, a Bill was crafted and presented at the 2013 Committee Hearing. I even worked with Dr. Rob Anda, who was kind enough to write and sign a personal letter asking the legislators to give serious consideration to passing that Bill. The, I had a copy of that letter delivered to the desk of every legislator while they were on the floor during the session.

This is the struggle I see in many states that are trying to make legislation out of ACEs. To me, ACEs can and should change policy in agencies and organizations, such as the Dept. of Human Services and Office of Public Instruction. But I don’t think it can be public policy necessarily. In this 2017 legislative session, Representative Karjala worked with ChildWise and others to get another ACEs-based Bill passed, and as I mentioned at the top of this article, it failed. Not because Rep. Karjala lacked passion or determination, but (in my opinion) you can’t legislate compassion. There certainly other reasons the Hearing Committee did not pass the Bill, such as no specific measurable outcomes, but it doesn’t mean the last six years of pressing the science of ACEs forward with legislators isn’t getting any traction.

Here’s a really great step forward, as seen in today’s local newspaper!

Governor signs bills addressing criminal justice costs

Gov. Steve Bullock has signed a package of bills that seek to reduce costs for the state public defender’s office and help reduce recidivism. One bill calls for the Office of Public Defender to establish a pilot project in up to four regions that would put clients in touch with social workers and other services that might help address the reasons they got in trouble with the law.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are already trying the “holistic defense” pilot project and say it has cut recidivism in half among chronic offenders who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. Social workers help offenders obtain driver’s licenses, jobs, housing and medical care.


Reducing recidivism would reduce caseloads for the public defender’s office, which has seen a 30 percent increase in caseloads since 2012. Public defenders have said they didn’t always feel like they are providing adequate representation to their clients.

Failed by Montana’s foster care, man succeeds despite long odds

Our own Bord Member, Schylar Baber highlighted in the Bozeman newspaper!

We are proud to have a man like Schylar on the Board of ChildWise Institute.
Is it because he is a very intelligent man? YES!
Is it because he has a passion to elevate the well-being and futures of our children? YES!
But also because Schylar has a unique point of view that he brings to the table. Read about it below and click on the headline!

Failed by Montana’s foster care, man succeeds despite long odds

Schylar Canfield Baber remembers everything about the moment he was taken away from his family.

Business Leaders in the ACE and Resilience Movement: A Different Kind of Bottom Line

ChildWise Institute is one of fourteen organizations in the nation to have received a two-year grant from the Health Federation of Philadelphia (with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) to advance awareness of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, and to accelerate trauma-informed actions with a purpose of becoming resilient-building communities all across Montana. This cohort of fourteen organizations is part of the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC). We launched an initiative called Elevate Montana in 2013 in hopes of it becoming a message that would resonate and spread throughout the state… and it is gaining more and more traction every day!

One of the areas we are focusing on is growing a network of for-profit businesses that want to become ACE-aware and trauma-informed in the process of creating a resilient-building work environment. We are not alone in this effort! As you’ll see in this article, which is gaining national attention, there are other members of our MARC cohort engaging businesses in their communities. Together, we will all learn from each other to help create a movement in the business sector all across the nation! Imagine businesses everywhere that have increased their productivity, reduced absenteeism, enhanced the health of their employees, and increased their Return On Investment (ROI) — all because they understand the importance of how childhood adversity can affect us as adults, and became change-makers in their own workplace by supporting their employees in ways that increase their other ROI — Return On Impact!

Thanks to the Health Federation of Philadelphia andRobertt Wood Johnson Foundation for being leaders of positive change in our nation!




Anxiety, Depression, and the Modern Adolescent – Kids are overexposed!

Intermountain (the founding organization of ChildWise Institute that started the movement, Elevate Montana) was honored to be a source for a TIME cover story this week: “Anxiety, Depression, and the Modern Adolescent.”

From the article: “Daniel Champer, the director of school-based services for Intermountain in Helena, Mont., says the one word he’d use to describe the kids in his state is overexposed. Montana’s kids may be in a big, sparsely populated state, but they are not isolated anymore.

A suicide might happen on the other side of the state and the kids often know before the adults, says Champer. This makes it hard for counselors to help.

“And nearly 30% of the state’s teens said they felt sad and hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row, according to the 2015 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey. To address what they consider a cry for help from the state’s teens, officials in Montana are working on expanding access to school-based and tele-based counseling.”

Look for this issue, coming out soon, online and in newsstands, and thank you, as always, for your kind support of Intermountain and your generosity to children, teens, and families in need.

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ACEs program to start in Bitterroot

The Bitterroot Cares For Kids Network is the “backbone organization” of the newly established Elevate Montana Bitterroot Affiliate, and they are on the run!

The Bitterroot Cares for Kids Network is starting support programming as a follow-up to their August conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) “ACEs in the Bitterroot.”

The conference was on identifying, preventing and alleviating the consequences of childhood abuse and neglect.

The first support programming is a book-club type of discussion group that meets from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays Oct. 12 – Nov. 16.

 The conference in August talked about… (read the article here)

Nowhere to Hide the Elephant in the [Class]room: Confessions of an ignorant and frustrated teacher

Dana Kauffman is an elementary school educator and has written this compelling, insightful article that challenges the status-quo. Please read this, and then go have a chat with your schools!

Nowhere to Hide the Elephant in the [Class]room: Confessions of an ignorant and frustrated teacher

ACE-impacted kids are more common than seasonal allergy sufferers

Childhood trauma is not a “color” issue. It’s not a geography issue. It’s not an income issue. Experts including Surgeon Generals and the U.S. Attorney General have used the specific terms “national crisis’”, and “epidemic”. The CDC says trauma impacts are critical to understand..

CDC scientists found that even in beautiful, suburban San Diego about one-fourth of middle-class, mostly white, college-educated, working folks with medical insurance had THREE or more ACEs!

Schools are not trauma-informed organizations

Just as children can not address their own trauma alone, teachers can not create trauma-informed school organizations all alone.


Everything is NOT fine…

Has your church heard about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)? If not, I am sure you have seen the effects in your communities and your worshipping communities. Those in our congregations, as well as those in our neighborhoods, are struggling under the weight of unresolved trauma, persistent toxic stress, and the dysfunction that results from broken relationships. No matter what we might want to tell one another, “Everything is NOT fine.”

In our home state—where 17% of children have experienced three or more ACEs, and 1 in 10 have four or more—faith communities should be especially aware of how their ministries can make a difference. Is your youth ministry concerned about teen suicide? Consider that the 10% of children with four or more ACEs have a 1200% greater chance of attempting suicide than their peers, and I think you’ll see why addressing the prevalence of ACEs in Montana is a good idea! (1)


In an effort to pull together the tremendous resources our faith communities possess, I’ll be facilitating a conversation at ChildWise’s Fall Conference in Helena on Resilience, September 29th and 30th. Our “faith-based breakout” will be one of many offering that will challenge you as well as encourage you to address the greatest public health crisis our state and nation faces. My hope is that dozens of congregations from across Montana could be represented, and their involvement would start a much-needed conversation in their churches, synagogues, and fellowships.
I am excited to share this time with Kimberly Konkel, MSW, who has worked in the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C. for the better part of two decades. Kim has been the assistant director of the Partnership with Faith-based communities and has a wealth of knowledge about how God is using congregations and faith communities across the country to effect social change and are living out the prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, on earth as it is in heaven!”
So, do whatever you need to do to get to Helena for this conference! At $185 for two days (lunch included on the first day!), this conference would be an excellent use of continuing education funds for your pastor, a personal investment in your missions and outreach team, or a way to encourage your youth and children’s ministry to be better equipped for ministry. In fact, if your only reason for not attending the Resilience Conference is the cost, please contact me… I will work hard to get you a scholarship or whatever it will take to make it happen.
It’s that important. I’m that passionate about this issue. Because, “Everything is NOT fine.”
Chaplain Chris Haughee
(1) Vanessa Sacks, M.P.P., David Murphy, Ph.D. and Kristin Moore, Ph.D. “Adverse Childhood Experiences: National and State-Level Prevalence.” ChildTrends Research Brief, July 2014; Publication #2014-28; page 2.

ChildWise Board member, Dr. Arzubi, is changing Montana for good!

Billings Clinic aiming to get psych patients out of emergency rooms

All too often, patients in psychiatric crisis end up in a hospital emergency room where they have to wait sometimes for hours to receive care.

Once there, they get checked out by doctors and nurses and often wait to either receive treatment, sometimes resulting in admission to psychiatric department, or get discharged to go home.

With that in mind, Billings Clinic announced Monday that its Clinic Classic fundraiser would go toward expanding its psychiatric department while building a new psychiatric stabilization evaluation unit that would get patients out of the emergency department and in front of psychiatric health workers who can better meet their needs.

“We would have a psychiatric emergency service that is designed for psychiatric patients instead of jamming those patients into a medical room in the emergency department,” said Dr. Eric Arzubi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and chair of Billings Clinic’s psychiatric department.


Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities

In July of 2015, ChildWise Institute was contacted by the Health Federation of Philadelphia inviting us to compete for a significant grant to advance wrk in Montana to elevate the well-being of children and families. 70 organizations were originally considered, the list was narrowed down to 24 that were invited, and only 11 grants would be awarded! Well, guess what? ChildWise Institute was selected as 1 of those 11 organizations in the entire nation! Because of additional funding coming from the California Endowment, 3 other organizations were added, making it a total of only 14 org’s in the nation to be part of this cohort! The actual funding for this grant comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of the nation’s largest foundations creating positive social change. Our plan is to drill down deep in regards to ACEs, trauma-informed approaches and resilience-building strategies in 5 communities across Montana. These communities are “pilot” projects if you will, with an eye toward using the success we generate and lessons learned in these communities to advance work across all communities in Montana. The communities we’ve selected are Wolf Point, Miles City, Kalispell, Missoula, and Helena. We have also contracted with the University of Montana School of Social Work to be our formal outside evaluators. Ours is a  bold, ambitious, important, exciting and specific plan  with measurable outcomes.

Maltreated children’s brains show ‘encouraging’ ability to regulate emotions.

Fascinating article by Deborah Bach from the University of Washington… especially if you’re a therapist to children and their families! Here’s a glimpse of why you should read this article:

Children who have been abused or exposed to other types of trauma typically experience more intense emotions than their peers, a byproduct of living in volatile, dangerous environments.

But what if those kids could regulate their emotions? Could that better help them cope with difficult situations? Would it impact how effective therapy might be for them?

A University of Washington-led team of researchers sought to address those questions by studying what happens in the brains of maltreated adolescents when they viewed emotional images and then tried to control their responses to them. The researchers found that with a little guidance, maltreated children have a surprising ability to regulate their emotions.

Regions of the brain where maltreated children had greater activity than non-maltreated children when looking at negative images.