ACEs Aware In Action – Highlights from the First-Ever Grantee Conference

On May 16-17, 2022, more than 200 people attended the first-ever ACEs Aware in Action: Innovations and Lessons Learned grantee conference in Long Beach, CA.   

Attendees had the opportunity to network in-person, choose from nearly two dozen sessions, and listen to inspiring presentations and panels from leaders in the ACEs and trauma-informed care movement. 

Opening Plenary
The conference began with a welcome and opening remarks from Jennifer Ryan, Executive Vice President of Aurrera Health Group, the organization that launched the ACEs Aware initiative on behalf of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and the Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) in late 2019. 

Ryan then proceeded to moderate the opening plenary discussion with DHCS’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Palav Babaria, Chief Data Officer John Ohanian, and Director of Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative Melissa Stafford-Jones. Among other topics, the group discussed the emerging policy landscape, eliminating health disparities, and how to use data to drive action. 

“To be a healing system,” said Stafford-Jones, “we have to approach our work in a healing way.” 

Keynote Presentation
The opening plenary was followed by a powerful keynote address by Dr. Roy Wade, Jr., assistant professor of pediatrics and general pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, highlighting exposure to racism and discrimination as sources of trauma. 

Dr. Wade began by referencing recent events affecting children around the world — the hate crime committed in Buffalo, NY, the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19. “The names and faces have changed [over the years], but the story remains the same,” Dr. Wade explained. “There is no shortage of trauma and travail in the lives of our children.” 

Wrapping up his presentation, Dr. Wade highlighted the importance of screening for, treating, and healing from the impact of ACEs, urging listeners to hold on to their purpose and perspective when the road gets tough: 

“You are not just impacting the children you care for, but their children and their children’s children — this work reverberates across time.”  

Breakout Sessions
Throughout the span of the two-day conference were a variety of learning sessions. Some focused on tools to help regulate the stress response through practices such as trauma-informed mindfulness and yoga. Others gave practical advice like how organizations can measure impact and drive quality improvement through data, partnering with Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans (MCPs), and building buy-in for network of care sustainability. There were many real-life examples of success stories and lessons learned.   

Closing Plenary
The final session began with attendees watching the first video in the new ACEs Aware Storytelling Series, which featured pediatrician Dr. Eric Ball from Children’s Health Orange County. Dr. Ball’s experience highlights the importance of applying ACEs Aware training to support patients, families, and clinical staff to cope with the psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and other life stressors. 

The video was followed by a panel discussion about the future of ACEs Aware, which since October 2021 has been implemented by the newly formed UCLA/UCSF ACEs Aware Family Resilience Network (UCAAN). 

UCAAN CEO Emily Williams, Co-Principal Investigators Shannon Thyne and Eddy Machtinger, and Office of the California Surgeon General Chief of Staff Matt Schueller discussed what UCAAN has been up to, including pilot projects and community grants, the importance of supporting providers who do this work, how California is leading the effort to address ACEs and toxic stress, and what other states are doing. 

Williams closed the discussion with an exhortation to the audience to remember this moment, May 17, 2022, with the hope that “years from now, we will look back and remember that this was the tipping point — we are the tipping point — of addressing the impact of ACEs and toxic stress not only in California and across the nation, but around the world.”  

ACEs Aware in Action: Innovations and Lessons Learned was held in Long Beach, CA on May 16 & 17, 2022 to bring together ACEs Aware grantees and partners representing clinics and community organizations across the health, human services, education, and non-profit sectors. 

 The conference was funded by the California Department of Health Care Services. 

ACEs Aware is grateful for the incredible work of all of the Network of Care grantee organizations across California whose efforts have greatly contributed to the tremendous success of this historic initiative.