Learn About Screening

Using early detection and intervention to improve health outcomes

female doctor showing a young female patient notes on a tablet

Preventing the lasting impacts of ACEs

The purpose of a complete ACE screening is to rapidly identify which patients are at highest risk for toxic stress and perform the next steps of a more complete, individualized assessment for each of them.

A complete ACE screening involves assessing for the triad of:

  • Adversity (the ACE score)
  • Clinical manifestations of toxic stress (ACE-Associated Health Conditions)
  • Protective factors

Clinical teams should use the ACEs and Toxic Stress Risk Assessment Algorithm to assess whether a patient is at low, intermediate, or high risk for having a toxic stress physiology. A patient’s risk of toxic stress helps inform the treatment strategy.

See more information on toxic stress treatment >

Once the risk has been assessed, a treatment strategy consisting of education can help patients recognize and respond to the role that past or present stressors may be playing on their current health conditions. Addressing toxic stress physiology is a core component of treating ACE-Associated health conditions.

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It is important to note that exposure to ACEs does not determine or foretell an individual’s future health or life outcomes. Fortunately, exposure to ACEs does not always lead to toxic stress. The presence of protective factors – like supportive relationships – can alter the risk of toxic stress and related health and social outcomes.

The health care setting offers a unique opportunity to help patients and families understand the impact of ACEs on health and to prevent and treat toxic stress. Effective January 1, 2020, California began providing a $29 Medi-Cal payment for conducting qualifying ACE screenings for pediatric and adult patients (up to age 65) with full-scope Medi-Cal, as part of the ACEs Aware initiative. This payment is intended to incentivize clinical teams to learn about and adopt ACE screening and the principles of trauma-informed care into their practices.

ACE screening:

  • Supports health promotion and prevention of illness.
  • Helps clinical teams and patients form stronger therapeutic relationships.
  • Improves clinical decision-making and treatment of serious and difficult-to-treat health conditions.
  • Promotes an intergenerational cycle of health by reducing the transmission of ACEs and toxic stress.

This section provides more information on the benefits of ACE screening, how to get certified to screen for ACEs, the screening tools, and the Medi-Cal billing codes with payment information.

FAQs

The training is available to any clinician team or staff members, but it is particularly geared towards primary care clinicians. Clinicians who will implement ACE screening in their practice should take the training and attest to completing it to qualify for Medi-Cal payment. Other clinicians and staff may also benefit from taking the training, but are not required to attest.

For more information on eligibility to receive Medi-Cal payment for ACE screenings, view eligible provider types.

Yes. You can earn 2.0 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits and 2.0 Maintenance of Certification (MOC) credits by taking the “Becoming ACEs Aware in California” training. You can earn additional education credit by completing additional cases.

  • The Postgraduate Institute of Medicine accredited the “Becoming ACEs Aware in California” training for:
    • 2.00 American Medical Association (AMA) Physician’s Recognition Award (PRA) Category 1 Credit™
    • 2.00 American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Prescribed credits
    • 2.00 American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) contact hours
    • 2.00 American Academy of PAs (AAPA) Category I CME credits
    • 2.00 American Psychological Association (APA) Continuing Education (CE) credits
    • 2.00 Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) CE credits
    • 2.00 NAADAC (the Association for Addiction Professionals) credits
    • 2.00 American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) points in the MOC II program
    • 2.00 American Board of Pediatrics’ (ABP) points in the MOC program

Learners may also take the course for attendance only. More information about credit types is available on the “Becoming ACEs Aware in California” training page.

Yes. Eligible Medi-Cal providers who screen Medi-Cal patients for ACEs can receive payment as of January 1, 2020. Beginning on July 1, 2020, Medi-Cal providers must have taken a certified Core Training and self-attested to completing the training to continue to receive Medi-Cal payment for ACE screenings. There is currently one Core Training available, Becoming ACEs Aware in California.

For children, the screening tool required for use is the Pediatric ACEs and Related Life-events Screener (PEARLS) tool. There are versions of the tool based upon age: PEARLS for children ages 0-11, to be completed by a caregiver; PEARLS for teenagers 12-19, to be completed by a caregiver; and PEARLS for teenagers 12-19, self-reported. All versions of PEARLS are available as identified and de-identified screeners. The ACE score refers only to Part 1 of PEARLS (Part 2 asks about social determinants of health and is not required).

In total, there are eight versions of the PEARLS tool:

  • PEARLS for children ages 0-11, to be completed by a caregiver with identified responses
  • PEARLS for children ages 0-11, to be completed by a caregiver with de-identified responses
  • PEARLS for children ages 0-11, with de-identified responses in Part 1 and identified responses in Part 2
  • PEARLS for adolescents 12-19, to be completed by a caregiver with identified responses
  • PEARLS for adolescents 12-19, to be completed by a caregiver with de-identified responses
  • PEARLS for adolescents 12-19, self-reported with identified responses
  • PEARLS for adolescents 12-19, self-reported with de-identified responses
  • PEARLS for adolescents 12-19, self-reported with de-identified responses in Part 1 and identified responses in Part 2

Eligible providers will be paid for the screening if any of the versions are used. The ACEs screening portion (Part 1) of the PEARLS tool is also valid for use to conduct ACEs screening among adults age 20 and older. Access the screening tools.

 

For adults, the screening tool required for use is the ACE Assessment Tool adapted from the work of Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Access the Identified and de-identified versions of the screening tools. If an alternative version of the ACE questionnaire for individuals age 20 and older is used, it must contain questions on the ten original categories of ACEs (and be available in an identified and de-identified response format) to qualify for payment.

 

Qualifying ACE screenings are eligible for payment in any clinical setting in which billing occurs through Medi-Cal fee-for-service or to a network provider of a managed care plan. For services provided on or after January 1, 2020, the following enrolled Medi-Cal provider types are eligible to receive payment:

  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Group Certified Nurse Practitioners
  • Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment Services Providers
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker – Individual, Group
  • Licensed Nurse Midwife
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor – Individual, Group
  • Marriage and Family Therapist – Individual, Group
  • Physician
  • Physician Group
  • Psychologist
  • County Hospital – Outpatient
  • County Clinics not associated with a Hospital
  • Indian Health Services (IHS)/Memorandum of Agreement
  • Otherwise Undesignated Clinic
  • Outpatient Heroin Detox Center
  • Rehabilitation Clinic
  • Rural Health Clinic (RHC)/Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)
  • In-state and border providers

To receive payment through Medi-Cal managed care, the provider also needs to be a network provider of a Medi-Cal managed care health plan billing for services provided to a member of that health plan.

ACE screenings are eligible for payment in any clinical setting in which billing occurs through Medi-Cal fee-for-service or to a network provider of a medical managed care plan. In most cases, ACE screenings are most appropriately delivered in an outpatient primary care setting.

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