National research has demonstrated that experiencing or witnessing traumatic events before age 18 can create dangerous levels of stress, which impacts healthy brain development if there is no intervention or support. As these youth get older, exposure to trauma can increase the likelihood they will engage in risky behaviors and have more incidents of poor mental and physical health outcomes in later years. An accumulation of these adverse childhood experiences compounds these risks.

According to the survey, 64 percent of students in Monroe County reported experiencing one or more traumatic events. Based on national data, the accepted standard for targeted intervention and supports is for youth with two or more instances of trauma. Nearly 40 percent of Monroe County youth are in this category.

How Did We Begin This Work?

In 2015, the Monroe County Office of Mental Health partnered with the Department of Public Health, and local school districts to include 11 Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) questions in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).  This groundbreaking initiative:

  • Surveyed current High School students vs. adult retrospective report
  • Provided a detailed descriptive analysis of students’ ACE score with general demographics –including the relationship with academic achievement
  • Presented the unequivocal correlations between risk for concerning health, mental health, and behavioral outcomes such as substance use, depression, suicidal ideation, and violence
  • Elevated the necessity to implement trauma-responsive practices across education and youth-serving systems

Where Are We Now?

Replicated and enhanced in 2017, the Monroe County YRBS/ACEs analysis now includes indicators on how resilience development:  

  • Plays a vital role in decreasing risk for mental health, substance use, suicide ideation, and violence
  • Creates a central framework for cross-system collaboration
  • Allows all adults to identify actions to improve outcomes for youth at the individual, sector, or community level
  • Provides all youth with essential attributes to meet life challenges with greater success

What’s Next?

Further exploration of this data will allow community stakeholders to deepen their understanding and skillset in working with youth and families to improve outcomes.  By continuing to expand our network of committed partners we will accelerate the growth of a community-wide resiliency framework to:

  • Support the growth of healthy adults
  • Increase academic engagement and achievement
  • Decrease risk and enhance assets for all youth
  • Minimize risk for compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma by supporting youth-serving adults

About the Partners

The Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) Network has been convening local trauma experts since 2014. It is a small group comprised of providers, researchers, and advocates to raise awareness and provide support for agencies working to reduce the stresses of traumatic experiences in the community.  The TIC Network, led by two funders —  The Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation — is also exploring ways to further support this work, particularly through research and evaluation. The TIC Network had strong representation in the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative Trauma Resource Team.

Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI) is a nonprofit management services organization with 25 years of experience partnering with customers in the behavioral health and human services field. CCSI provides training, research, and evaluation expertise, particularly in the area of trauma- informed care.

The Consortium on Trauma, Illness, and Grief in Schools (TIG) is a countywide effort that prepares school districts to have appropriate mental health support in place when staff must respond to events involving trauma, violence, illness and death. This collaboration with the Monroe County Office of Mental Health and the surrounding school districts was piloted in 2001 with six school districts and 20 school staff. Today, there are more than 500 TIG-trained staff in every Monroe County school district as well as some private schools and three districts in neighboring counties.

Rochester Area Community Foundation serves an eight-county region that includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Yates, and Wayne counties. Last year, the Community Foundation distributed nearly $30 million in grants and scholarships from more than 1,300 charitable funds created by individuals, families, businesses and organizations. Discretionary grantmaking focuses on creating a more equitable community and strengthening the vitality of our region. Since 1972, the Community Foundation has distributed more than $426 million in grants and scholarships.

The Wilson Foundation was created in 1963 by Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson out of a deep sense of commitment to the Rochester community. Over its 50-year history, the foundation has been committed to social and community initiatives in Rochester and throughout the nation, particularly through research and advocacy work focusing on the role families play in the homelessness system. Its mission is to improve quality of life through initiating and supporting projects that measurably demonstrate a means of creating a sense of belonging within the family and the community.