California’s new surgeon general, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, is driving policy change to address childhood trauma that will implement pediatric adverse experiences screening and intervention across the state. Yes, this is a big task in a big state, but Harris has been working to tackle the ill effects of childhood trauma for a long time and has amassed much experience and knowledge.
In 2007, Harris was the first medical director of a community pediatric clinic in a low-income neighborhood in south San Francisco. With support and collaboration from multiple community partners, that clinic transformed into the Center for Youth Wellness, which has become a national leader in advancing pediatric medicine, raising public awareness and transforming the way society responds to children exposed to adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress.
These and many other achievements led the governor to tap Harris as California’s first surgeon general. She quickly passed the landmark Assembly Bill No. 340, implementing routine trauma screenings for all low-income children.
Working as California’s surgeon general, Harris brings everyone to the table welcoming input, feedback and knowledge sharing. She believes that authentic partnerships are tantamount to solving intergenerational trauma. Her goal is to leverage resources and develop partnerships that will address health equity in ways that will empower participants to work together to heal their communities.
The key to addressing childhood trauma, to truly create systemic and lasting change, is to ensure that everyone is at the table. Here in New Mexico, the Anna, Age Eight Institute for the data-driven prevention of childhood trauma has the opportunity to bring together leaders from early childhood, education, health, child welfare and juvenile justice from around the state (“Consequences of childhood trauma costly for N.M.,” My View, Nov. 10).
New Mexico needs both a top-down and bottom-up approach so that everyone is aligned and pulling in the same direction. The 100 percent community solution that Anna, Age Eight has outlined is a good start to address individual communities, but it should strive for a broader, statewide focus.
No one has the time or resources to reinvent the wheel. The problem is urgent, and too many children are suffering deep and sustained trauma. All stakeholders have ideas, resources, passion and the will to work together to help solve New Mexico’s immense childhood trauma problem.
The time is now for us to come together in service of our children and to celebrate successes and to learn from one another. While New Mexico has different challenges than California and likely unique solutions, we all want the same thing — children who are living trauma-free and thriving. It’s not what “New Mexico can teach California,” but instead, it’s what we can learn from and with each other that will ultimately eradicate child trauma.