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The Michigan ACE Initiative is focused on raising awareness about Adverse Childhood Experiences and developing trauma-informed, healing organizations and communities across the state.

For more than 20 years, public health experts have been aware of a critical factor that can put a child at a disadvantage in life: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). There are ten key ACEs related to episodes of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction, such as divorce, incarceration, and substance abuse. Unmitigated toxic stress from this type of adversity results in harmful effects on children, compromising their brain and immune system development as well as cognitive functioning, which affects critical thinking.

Studies have found a correlation between the number of ACEs a person has (an ACEs load) and adult health conditions, such as alcoholism, depression, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Additionally, adults with high ACEs loads are more likely than others to cope in unhealthy ways, such as using tobacco, abusing alcohol, or engaging in self-harm. The higher a person’s ACEs load, the greater the likelihood of these outcomes. The impact of high ACEs loads are seen in our schools, the juvenile justice system, correctional statistics, and job performance data.

The current priorities of the Michigan ACE Initiative include:

• Expand ACE awareness to accelerate research, educate the public and lawmakers, and ultimately reduce and prevent ACEs in Michigan

• Provide training and technical assistance across sectors and populations to raise awareness; identify, understand, and respond to ACEs; and build resilience in individuals, organizations, and communities

• Pursue ACE-aware, trauma-informed policies in the public and private sectors. The Michigan ACE Initiative has built awareness, introduced community leaders and infrastructure to the core concepts of the study, and built on the support coming from the health and human services sector. Now we are faced with taking that science, the groundswell of interest and the momentum created, and implementing programs across our state that can help to develop trauma informed, healing communities, and begin moving to prevention.

For the complete July 2020 Impact Report highlighting the accomplishments of the Michigan ACE Initiative, click here.

There’s no one approach or one size fits all application that’s going to work. But we can encourage organizations and institutions to examine their existing infrastructure and find creative ways to adapt what they already have to get the job done. The potential of the ACE Study is real. Making the transition to a more healing society will yield tangible results, but only if we can help make it happen across all of our communities, no matter how different they are. It’s ambitious, and Michigan is the first place to try to do it statewide. What happens in Michigan will be a roadmap for the rest of the country.

"Since participating in the Michigan ACE Initiative training it seems as though I haven’t had a single experience in which I cannot use my learning. I share what was learned and even better, I can offer training for those who want to know more."

— Zoe Lyons, Jackson County DHHS

"The ACE Master Training was exactly what I needed to help propel us forward as a trauma-informed community. The knowledge, tools and network acquired helps build local capacity to shift the way we support families (and each other) in our community."

— Kathy Szenda Wilson, BC Pulse

"The ACE Master Training provides the tools to share essential information about adverse childhood experiences and its impacts. This kind of knowledge has the power to transform how we understand people and the capacity for change."

— Sarah Shea, PhD, LMSW, Eastern Michigan University School of Social Work