Dr. Karen Mark, Medical Director of the California Department of Health Care Services, talks about the importance of ACE screening.
A transformative movement is underway in California, and I am honored to help lead the effort to make everyone ACEs Aware. The California Department of Health Care Services, in partnership with the Office of the California Surgeon General, is leading the ACEs Aware initiative, a first in the nation statewide effort to pay Medi-Cal providers for screening their patients for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) so they can provide them with trauma-informed care. The initiative seeks to address the public health crisis of toxic stress resulting from ACEs, a crisis that has, until recently, been largely unrecognized by our health care system.
ACEs are stressful or traumatic experiences people have by age 18 that were identified in the landmark ACEs Study. They relate to 10 categories of adversities in three domains: abuse, neglect, and/or household dysfunction. ACEs can result in toxic stress, which is linked to ACE-Associated Health Conditions, including asthma, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, substance use, and more. These conditions include nine out of 10 of the leading causes of death in the United States and cause some of most harmful, persistent, and expensive health challenges facing our state and nation.
Unfortunately, ACEs are common throughout California. By offering providers training and payment to screen patients for ACEs, we open the door to conversations that are important to improving health by providing trauma-informed, patient-centered care.