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Vermont: State Senate approves more mental health support for kids

Mar 18, 2018, VT Digger: Senate backs program that would prevent childhood trauma https://vtdigger.org/2018/03/18/senate-backs-program-prevent-childhood-trauma/ The state Senate has approved a bill aimed at addressing the long-term health and social effects of severe childhood trauma. The legislation, S.261, which now goes to the House, is designed to bolster the state’s support for children and families who have experienced “toxic stress.” Exposure to severe stress has been shown to alter brain chemistry and affect behavior. … “This is an important bill,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden. “And I think it’s important that we begin to recognize the significance of prevention.” S.261 is the result of work done by the Adverse Childhood Experiences Working Group, which was created last year by the Legislature. The idea was to take a closer, more Vermont-focused look at a 1998 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente that found that nearly two-thirds of participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience including abuse or neglect, and more than 20 percent reported three or more such experiences. The study also found that adverse childhood experiences increased the risk of problems later in life, including addiction, disease, depression, intimate partner violence and poor work or academic performance. Lyons took care to distinguish between everyday stressors and the “toxic stress” of adverse childhood experiences in remarks made on the Senate floor last week. Toxic stress is “prolonged,” she said, “and over time can have an effect – especially on children – of changing the brain pathways” and altering behavior. … The bill also seeks to ensure that school administrators, school nurses and accountable care organizations are involved in efforts to prevent and combat the effects of adverse childhood experiences. Central to the state effort would be the new director of prevention and health improvement. …