Ky. ranks in top 10 for adverse childhood experiences; $200,000 grant will address child trauma in Lake Cumberland area

The Louisville-based Bounce Coalition has been awarded $200,000 to work with Russell County Schools and the Lake Cumberland District Health Department to help children who deal with violence, addiction and other trauma.

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky grant will be used to create a rural program in Russell County and nine surrounding counties to address adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as a term used to describe all types of abuse, neglect and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur to people under the age of 18.

The Bounce Coalition was launched in 2014 with another grant from the foundation to focus on ACES in Jefferson County Public Schools.

“The Bounce program helps build children’s resilience to toxic stressors, which can lead to chronic illnesses as they grow into adulthood and keep them from thriving throughout their lives,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a news release. “Our initial work with Bounce in an urban setting showed highly promising results, and now we’re going to pilot the program in a rural setting. Our goal is to create a blueprint for addressing ACEs in school settings across the commonwealth.”

According to America’s Health Rankings, Kentucky is in the top 10 states for ACEs, with 27% of its children having experienced two or more stressful or traumatic events on a list of 10. Kentucky Health Commissioner Jeff Howard said the national average is less than 22 %.

“This means our children are starting their lives at a disadvantage compared to kids in other states, which is why this program focusing on ACEs and childhood trauma is vital,” Howard said in the release. “In order to have a better and brighter future, it is imperative that we address ACEs.”

Bounce Coalition Leader Joe Bargione added that the good news is that trauma doesn’t have to define these children’s lives. According to the news release, research shows that children with resilience skill sets are three times more likely to be engaged in school than their peers who have no skills or whose skills are underdeveloped.

“There is a growing body of knowledge that helps individuals and organizations recognize and respond to trauma, building protective factors and shifting the perspective from ‘What is wrong with this child?’ to ‘What happened to this child?'”he said in the release.

The Bounce program in Russell County will include professional development for teachers, staff and bus drivers, in-class observation and role-modeling, classroom discussions, peer support groups for students, and education for parents, caregivers and the entire community.

In the second year of the program, Bounce will work with the health department to deploy “train-the-trainer” programs to create a system of self-sufficiency for the community. The program will begin in August.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for Russell County Schools’ staff and students,” Supt. Michael Ford said in the release. “We know that when our students’ emotional needs are met, they are better able to participate in the learning that is taking place in their classrooms.”

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