June 21, 2013

Panel discusses family wellness

Resource network looks at trauma study.

by Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — Childhood trauma — and the toll it can take later in life — became the main focus of a Cass County Resource Network family wellness forum Thursday afternoon.

Six community leaders answered questions following a presentation on the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study presented by C.J. Davis, CEO of Four County Counseling Center.

The panel members included Leo Burns, judge at Cass County Circuit Court; Scott Ellison, chaplain at Guardian Angel Hospice; Timothy Gearhart, therapist at Four County Counseling Center; Amy Miller, health coach at Logansport Memorial Hospital; Dr. Kathleen Miller, psychiatrist at Four County Counseling Center; and Michele Starkey, superintendent at Logansport Community School Corporation.

The ACE study honed in on the association between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.

Data from the study shows health, social and economic risks result from childhood trauma. 18,000 participated in the collaborative research between the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente. More information on the research can be found at

Davis discussed the role of trauma in childhood and how it can affect adulthood.

The family wellness forum was arranged after Davis, Gearhart and Lita Rouser, director of impact strategies and community investment at United Way of Cass County, discussed the importance of getting the research out in the community, Davis said.

Rouser said she was pleased with the interaction and ideas presented.

“What’s exciting is it puts us all on the same page,” Rouser said. “We have often worked in isolation from each other. ACE gives us all the possibility to share a road map.”

Panel members were asked in what role they have seen trauma in the community from their profession.

Burns recalls dealing with children in the past who would come in front of him for running away. Burns said he would mistakenly tell them to not be too quick to grow up.

“But in this context and research, I see they are running away from trauma,” Burns said. “The focus is to look in to this further now. This research will help look at people and see the root of the issue.”

Starkey said those in her profession see trauma impact kids in school several times a day.

“These students have had a trauma and we’re telling them to read, study and take a test because the state wants them to,” Starkey said. “The last thing on their mind is learning because of what is going on in their life.”

Starkey said she tells every staff member to be aware because they may be the only positive interaction a given student will receive.

Ellison suggested the religious community continue to work with others more.

“Religious communities can do more of working with schools and others to get indicators of trauma,” Ellison said. “It’s important we stretch our church boxes and reach out and focus on children.”

An ACE survey was created and is scored from 0 to 10. The higher the score, the greater the exposure and the greater the risk of negative consequences. Research has also shown that the ACE score affects mortality as well.

“Research shows it’s the community’s responsibility to reach children in the home,” Davis said.

The panel members then discussed how they envision ACE research in their profession.

Amy Miller said she envisions looking at the big picture.

“I try to look at the whole individual, not just part of the issue,” Miller said. “My focus is to meet people where they are.”

Dr. Kathleen Miller mentioned that psychology professionals forget the negative perception the public has on mental illness.

“We need to get out of Four County and in to schools, emergency and the community,” Miller said. “I hope we integrate care, and work together within the community, outside of our own systems.”

Gearhart said he would like to see quicker access to care.

“When there is a delay in care, we sometimes miss the boat,” Gearhart said.

Davis said what they need now is more education for people who might not know about the research and the effects of childhood trauma.

At the end of the panel, attendees were asked to break in to small groups and look at a real-life scenario and come up with ways the people in the scenario could be helped.

Each table was asked to take notes on suggestions — at the end of the meeting, the notes went to the Better Health of Cass County mental health task force.

Rouser said the task force will take the ideas and develop a plan to move forward. She said it will be a several-month process to implement the ideas.

“I think we’re fortunate in Cass County that we already have a strong coalition of people working together through Better Health of Cass County and CCRN,” Rouser said. “We’re fortunate we’re not starting from zero.”

The state of Washington has adopted the ACE research for policy development, Rouser said.

“We could someday see something like that for Indiana.”

Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or