The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012 spurred Connecticut to act to understand why this happened and to prevent a similar tragedy from afflicting our children again. Soon after, legislative, executive, families, and local and non-profit partners created the Children’s Behavioral Health Plan (Plan 4 Children) and the Children’s Behavioral Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board that is charged with promoting the well-being of all children in Connecticut through prevention, early intervention, and treatment strategies. This funding opportunity will position Connecticut to advance this work by increasing the capacity for monitoring ACEs, engaging a diverse group of stakeholders in utilizing that data to identify and implement new ACE prevention strategies, and increase the utilization of ACEs data.
Initially, we will assess the current capacity to measure ACEs-related data indicators and determine a) gaps in available indicators, and b) what additional indicators are needed. Building on an existing data infrastructure at the Center for Prevention Evaluation and Statistics (CPES), the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup (SEOW), developed to monitor behavioral health and substance use disorder services, will form a new ACEs Workgroup to expand the surveillance data indicators included in the publically available data portal. This expansion includes existing, but inaccessible administrative data and innovative community-level data collection such as web-panel surveys. Particular attention will be paid to incorporating data that allows for subgroup analyses and for incorporating social determinants of health variables to identify disparities, especially disparities by race/ethnicity and geography. Concurrently, the group will conduct a landscape analysis of prevention strategies and activities in use or available to providers in the state.
The capacity assessments will be used to refine the implementation and monitoring of new ACEs prevention strategies of strengthening economic supports by engaging families who receive home care and early childhood services around the Earned Income Tax Credit process, increasing access to information on the EITC through 211, and advocating for policies that improve family-friendly work policies and policies that address social determinants of health; conducting a public awareness campaign that shifts social norms around child safety and mental health; improving social emotional skills by disseminating evidence-based materials that promote child resilience; and implementing trauma-informed training for caregivers working directly with families to lessen harm. Our efforts are focused upstream, because early life experiences have a profound impact on their economic, health and education outcomes later in life.
Data must be in accessible formats to be used by communities in the decision-making process. Our partnership with CT Data Collaborative will transform our ability to raise awareness of the impact of ACEs in communities and engage community members to the data-to-action cycle.
With the data and governance infrastructures in place, we can continuously monitor for quality improvement, identify gaps in care or community needs and respond collaboratively. All of this will be done through a community participatory lens, where families are partners from data collection to decision making to dissemination. Over time, young children will experience fewer adverse experiences and will be healthy and thriving. Communities will be equipped to address historic economic and health disparities with the support of government and non-profit actors.