SPRINGFIELD – Trauma experienced as a child can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years.
That was the finding of a 10-year study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a decade ago.
On Wednesday, state lawmakers marked the first Trauma-Informed Awareness Day by speaking about the importance of addressing adverse childhood experiences that people carry with them through life.
“We have research that shows trauma impacts the brains of our children,” said state Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago. “But the great news is with trauma-informed care, we can teach resiliency, and we can make a difference in the future of our students.”
Adverse childhood experiences can range from physical, emotional or sexual abuse as a child to domestic violence in the home. They also can be experiences with racism or involvement in the foster care system.
They affect physical and mental health, and can lead to poor health as an adult. A person who has had eight or more adverse childhood experiences is expected to live 20 fewer years than someone who has had none, the CDC study showed.
During a Wednesday news conference at the Capitol, Villa joined Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Department of Human Services head Grace Hou and Mikva Youth mental health representatives in discussing legislative attempts to help children with trauma.
Senate Resolution 99, sponsored by Morrison and adopted March 21, aims to shift how short- and long-term trauma events are approached from a health care aspect.
Trauma-informed awareness is something Raoul said he’s advocated for in the past, but with a focus on criminal justice.
When Raoul worked as a Cook County prosecutor, he said it was common for someone who originally had come to his office as a victim to later be there for crimes they had committed.
He acknowledged that it didn’t need to happen.
“Had we appropriately invested in trauma-informed services, we would have interrupted that minor respondent from having to come back into the building as somebody who committed a crime,” Raoul said.
A 2013 Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey reported that more than 60% of Illinois adults had at least one adverse childhood experience, while 14.2% of adults had experienced four or more.
Hou said the 3,000 children who receive Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services from a collection of 30 organizations around the state are only a “small snapshot” of children who are served through youth services.
To undo the harm caused by trauma, Hou said, it’s important to approach trauma-informed care with “the best available science and practice,” but also as a statewide collaboration.
But, she said, Illinois youth also must be brought to the table to discuss trauma-informed care and wellness.
“It is so important that our programs designed for youth are designed with youth,” Hou said.