ACEs Aware Spotlight: Artie Padilla

Growing a Trauma-Informed Network of Care in Fresno County

Artie Padilla is the Senior Program Officer for Neighborhood Development at the Central Valley Community Foundation, and a member of the Trauma-Informed Network of Care team in Fresno County.

Fresno County, which is located in the middle of California’s Central Valley, has a population of nearly one million residents. It is one of the most diverse areas in the country, with more than 100 languages spoken within the county. Fresno is the fifth largest city in California, and Fresno Unified is the third largest school district in the state. Fresno County is also a highly bountiful area for growing food, with agriculture far and away our leading industry. We are rich in culture and rich in food production.

Unfortunately, Fresno also has the second-highest extreme poverty rate in the nation after Bakersfield. We have some of the worst air quality in the country and, in spite of our agricultural riches, 24 percent of our families are food insecure.

I’ve seen the many manifestations of trauma firsthand throughout my 15 years of work in Fresno. However, things started to become much clearer for me when I first read the landmark 1998 ACEs study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, which lays out a clear relationship between childhood adversity and many of the leading causes of death in the United States. The ACEs study began my journey of becoming more educated about the impact of toxic stress and trauma, particularly on developing children.

This journey led me to help create the Fresno County Trauma & Resilience Network. It started with a small gathering of other community-based organization (CBO) leaders and colleagues, and we began by having conversations about the ACEs study and subsequent studies that helped us better understand the science behind what we were all visually experiencing in our neighborhood work. What has transpired over the last three-and-a-half years is an engaged network that organizes mini conferences and workshops that are helping us towards our goal of Fresno County being a trauma-informed community. We’ve begun the process of training other CBOs, institutions, city staff, county staff, and residents on the health impacts of trauma and the power of resiliency.

Our bodies of work are all parts of the puzzle that holistically serves our city.

When the statewide ACEs Aware initiative launched last year, it was a natural transition for our trauma and resilience network to move into a more formalized network of care strategy. We already had a collection of informed community-based organizations, great connectivity to our civic institutions, and begun to build stronger relationships to our health care sector. Fresno also has what we call the “network of networks,” a group of initiatives that are focused on addressing deeper-rooted issues like poverty, systemic racism, health inequity, and low educational attainment. Following is a short summary of each initiative:

All four of these networks are intertwined and support each other. I serve on the leadership team for each, and our initiatives are constantly communicating because we see that our bodies of work are all parts of the puzzle that holistically serves our city.

In Fresno County, we are committed to tackling these issues with equity and inclusion at the center. We are also anchored in being trauma-informed, committed to transformative community engagement, and remaining constantly tethered to the very community we serve.

Building a strong, trauma-informed network of care can be slow work at first. We’re all busy right now, and it takes a lot of bridge builders to bring folks into the movement. But through our efforts in Fresno County, we are starting to see positive change in our community. We will continue to learn how we can adapt our practices, programs, and systems to be more focused on resiliency so we can heal from the toxic stress our kids, families, and community have had to deal with for decades. By doing this, we can be a part of reaching our Surgeon General’s goal of reducing ACEs by half in one generation.

To hear more from Artie Padilla and others on lessons learned in Fresno County, watch the full ACEs Aware “Network of Care” webinar.

For more information on building a trauma-informed network of care, read the California Surgeon General’s report “Roadmap for Resilience,” which provides clear cross-sector and equitable response solutions, models, and best practices to be replicated or tailored to serve community needs.