Joann Stephens will never forget the meeting at which a man pounded the table.
Stephens, who has a high school education, a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and children with mental health issues, became an accidental advocate. “The systems were not working for my kid, so [I thought], What do we do to fix it?” But at meetings with policy-makers and professionals, Stephens often felt discounted. “One time, a man pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘I can’t stand it when people like you tell us we can do better!’”
In the first year of the Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC) grant, Wisconsin's Children's Mental Health Collective Impact (CMHCI) has focused on bringing people like Stephens—parents and youth with “lived experience” of trauma, substance use or mental health issues—to the table. Stephens, the family relations coordinator at the state’s Office of Children’s Mental Health (OCMH, backbone agency for CMHCI), works closely with fifteen parent and youth partners, providing training, support, education and role-modeling.
In Wisconsin, ACEs awareness has entered the governor’s mansion.
One day this fall, Governor Scott Walker stopped by to chat with a group that works with First Lady Tonette Walker on Fostering Futures, her initiative to boost child and family well-being through trauma-informed culture, policies and practices.
Elizabeth Hudson, Director of the state’s Office of Children’s Mental Health (OCMH), listened as the governor told of a visit to the Veterans’ Administration (VA). When he asked how the VA was integrating trauma-informed care into its activities, administrators looked at him in surprise: How did he know that term?
Hudson said he replied, “I know it’s important, instead of asking ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to ask, ‘What happened to you to bring you here?’” Listening to him, Hudson said, “I got chills.”
The Health Federation of Philadelphia serves as a keystone supporting a network of Community Health Centers as well as the broader base of public and private-sector organizations that deliver health and human services to vulnerable populations.