ACEs training for CHWs

Advance your ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Training with These 5 Skills

Advance Your ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Training with These 5 Skills

/ Blog / By Monique Cuvelier

Most employers who work with community health workers (CHWs) know that they’re a tremendous help for supporting people with chronic health conditions, but they’re also valuable for anyone who has experienced violence or trauma.

Both adults and children who’ve experienced trauma face barriers to meeting their health or health-related social needs. They may also benefit from preventive services.

This is especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic. The social and educational disruptions based on closures, illness and changed routines have intensified concerns about everyone’s mental health and suicidal behavior, but especially children and adolescents.

According to the most recent Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES), children and adolescents are experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • 37.1% of U.S. high school students reported poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • nearly 20% considered suicide
  • 9% attempted suicide in the preceding year
  • Female students and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, other or questioning (LGBQ) are experiencing disproportionate levels of poor mental health and suicide-related behaviors

Programs that use CHWs, promoters, health advocates and others with similar titles are in many ways dedicated to addressing the fallout. To help all clients, no matter their age, CHWs should have some training adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) so they know ways to support clients and their families.

CHW Core Competencies

Find out all about what the CHW Core Competencies are, CHW roles, CHW careers, how to cross-train your staff, and how to get state certifications for the CHWs on your team

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

ACEs are possibly traumatic events that happen to children up to 17 years old. The anxiety, worry and stresses that caregivers feel is contagious. The effects of these feelings can be passed down to young children.

In some cases, according to the CDC are, the stress can be clearly negative parenting:

  • experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • witnessing violence in the home or community
  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Or, it can be the effects of an unstable environment, such as:

  • being in a household with substance use problems
  • having a caregiver with mental health problems
  • going through instability due to parental separation or household incarceration

About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs. That number is likely higher because of the COVID pandemic.

ACEs can negatively affect the health of people all through their lives. They can have a higher risk of injury, maternal and child health problems, chronic diseases and mental health problems.

Community Health Workers and ACEs

CHWs are helpful for addressing ACEs among individuals and families. Community health workers can:

Reduce stress: With training in such areas as self-care and other stress-reducing practices like physical activity, CHWs can help reduce stress overall. Simply the option of having someone available to help and listen is a valuable stress-reducer.

Promote positive parenting: CHWs can eliminate adverse experiences from happening by providing positive parenting tips. These can range from ways to talk to a new baby to addressing subjects like smoking and sex.

Connect to resources: A large portion of any CHW’s job is to connect clients with resources. They can link individuals with providers and resources that can address their needs.

More generally, CHWs can also address issues related to ACEs. People who’ve had these experiences are more likely to use substances, attempt suicide or develop heart disease.

The Need for Adverse Childhood Experiences Skills

ACEs are preventable. If caregivers and others such as CHWs can provide support and safe environments, then everyone in a community can be healthier.

This is always important, but higher rates of abuse and stress in the COVID era means that now is the right time to train your staff in skills to prevent ACEs.

If you want to your staff to support clients, patients and community members, they’ve got to master these five super skills:

Here Are 5 ACEs Super Skills

1. Basic ACEs Training

Learners should begin any ACEs study with an introduction to what ACEs are. A foundational course in the topic will provide an overview that includes prevalence and impact, such as health disparities, and a lifetime of complications.

A basic training should also cover root causes of ACEs, including toxic stress and family histories. It should also cover screening, risk assessments, and options for treatment.

2. Trauma-informed Care

Your team should build on a basic program with an introduction to trauma-informed care. This kind of course should describe what trauma is and how it can impact a person’s brain development through ages.

A trauma-informed care course should also focus on ways to identify trauma, especially in children. It should provide ways to promote safety and respond to families who are undergoing trauma.

3. Behavioral Healthcare

CHWs should learn about behavioral healthcare, including mental illness, depression and substance use. Behavioral healthcare training for CHWs should help participants learn how to recognize some of the more common mental illnesses and communication skills for ways to support clients and their families.

4. Substance Use

Substance use is a part of many behavioral healthcare programs, but anyone dedicated to reducing ACEs should delve a little deeper into this topic. This is often a coping mechanism to control stress in adults but can have a severely negative effect on kids.

A substance use course will describe how alcohol and drug addictions affect the whole family. They should learn how addictions work and what kinds of effects substances have on the body and other illnesses. A substance use course will also provide learners strategies for connecting clients to cessation programs and resources.

5. Care Coordination

CHWs need to double down on learning how to develop and improve care coordination and system navigation skills to reduce ACEs.

Knowledge in care coordination allows agencies to combine and share information among teams, organizations, and facilities whose services that clients need. This skill, paired with system navigation, is essential to coordinate care among many providers and agencies. It’s also a natural partner with building outreach skills.

Care coordination and system navigation helps learners gather resources and connect services providers for patient and client help.

A part of any training module or program should also include cultural competency. This essential skill allows CHWs to work with diverse communities. They’ll also pick up strategies for addressing language barriers, acknowledging cultural differences and ultimately building trust with their clients.

Stressors will never go away, but ACEs can be stopped. Your team should focus on keeping negative influences from having an overwhelming impact on communities.

Ready for training in ACEs or some of these other topics? Contact CHWTraining for a free consultation with one of our education consultants.

CHW Core Competencies

Find out all about what the CHW Core Competencies are, CHW roles, CHW careers, how to cross-train your staff, and how to get state certifications for the CHWs on your team