The Tulsa Regional Chamber plans to include Adverse Childhood Experiences in the OneVoice legislative agenda for the greater Tulsa area.

A series on ACEs published this year by the Tulsa World explained the science linking the amount of trauma in a person’s early years and challenges that person faces as an adult.

ACEs are rated on a scale up to 10, higher numbers reflecting more types of traumatic episodes. The higher that ACE score, the more likely the child will develop issues such as chronic health problems, mental health disorders and risky behaviors like smoking, promiscuity and substance abuse as an adult.

The National Survey of Children’s Health conducted by the Census Bureau shows 30.4% of the state’s children score two or higher, the highest portion in the nation. Oklahoma leads the nation in the percentage of children with an ACE score of four or higher.

It’s not surprising, then, that we also lead the nation in incarceration rates and many other negative metrics. The ACEs measure is indicative of the state’s well-being now and in the future.

Research in ACEs originated in the mid- to late 90s and has flourished in Oklahoma higher education and professional institutions. Much is being discovered about trauma’s impact but also about resiliency and hope.

Treatment shifts the approach from asking “What is wrong with you?” to “What has happened to you?”

Even as more becomes known, the information — even the term — has not moved into the public’s understanding, practices or language. That is one reason the Tulsa World spent a year reporting on the issue.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber’s inclusion of ACEs in its OneVoice agenda will further educate residents about the need to push for government programs that can change the situation.

OneVoice is an advocacy initiative of 75 northeastern Oklahoma organizations ranging from government to businesses. About 400 community leaders attended the session to put forth 15 state and 15 federal priorities.

Breaking the cycle of childhood trauma will propel Oklahoma into better social and workforce outcomes. We commend the chamber and its participants for prioritizing ACEs and elevating it to a legislative issue.

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