By Iridian Casarez, North Coast Journal, November 22, 2019
The Sequoia Conference Center on Humboldt County Office of Education’s campus was at capacity, 448 people had landed a seat — while at least another 100 watched from a live stream in a separate room. The draw was a conversation among California’s first Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris and a panel of locals spearheading Humboldt County’s efforts to alleviate the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACEs.
“Thank you for all the incredible work you are doing here in Humboldt, to all of you on the panel. For me, most (important) of all, is thanks to all of you for being here tonight, because this is how we break the inter-generational cycle (of ACEs),” Harris said. “We do it in community and we do it by showing up and having this conversation and talking about these challenges.”
ACEs are traumatic experiences (like violence, abuse, neglect and/or separation from a parent) individuals face as children. Each experience counts as one ACE. As Harris described it, these traumatic experiences activate our fight-or-flight response. While the response itself is a good thing we need to survive, when it is constantly stimulated it releases toxic stress, which can cause many health issues later in life. Humboldt and Mendocino counties have some of the highest rates of ACEs, according to a study by the Center for Youth Wellness, which found that 75 percent of residents have experienced one or more ACEs while more than 30 percent of residents have experienced more than four ACEs.