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Developing a Trauma-Informed Public Policy Guide

On November 13, 2014 the ACEs Connection community managers held a casual ACEs Meet-Up to discuss with interested individuals: “How do we build a trauma-informed city?“  The group of participants had a discussion around starting in all the obvious places – mental and behavioral health care, schools, child welfare programs, police and fire departments. And that quickly led to the following questions: How do we build past that? How can we broaden the conversation around trauma-informed principles, adapting an almost “Health in all Policies” stance to the subject?


The meet-up included two informal presentations that were examples of what was being done in Philadelphia around applying trauma-informed principles to policies and programs.


The first presentation was by Shoshana Akins and Caitlin O’Brien, two Masters of Public Health candidates from Drexel University whom are working as project managers at the Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation. Shoshana and Caitlin lead 180 people through a Policy Hack at the 

An Infographic that Caitlin and Shoshana created, explaining the Trauma-Informed Public Policy Hack

Scattergood Foundation’s Annual Innovation Conference on October 30 and 31. The goal was to use trauma-informed principles to redesign the enrollment processes for six public assistance programs in Philadelphia, a reform for which The City of Philadelphia recently won a $30,000 grant from Living Cities. Shoshana and Caitlin shared how these programs are essential lifelines to many Philadelphians, yet they are immensely complex to understand, difficult to submit, and largely unknown to many who are eligible. It is estimated that over 135,000 eligible households are not utilizing these programs, leaving millions of available funds unused.


As poverty and trauma are inextricably linked, services like public assistance programs that interact primarily with low-income populations must have some institutional understanding of how trauma can affect one’s health and economic wellbeing. Out of the policy hack on October 31st and the November 13th meet-up they have developed a short guide for creating trauma-informed public policy.


The second presentation on November 13th, was given by Mary Horstmann, Chief of Staff at the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, whom as been a great partner with Shoshana and Caitlin in creating the trauma-informed guide to public policy. Mary presented on Shared Prosperity and its vision for Philadelphia – a city that fosters collaboration among the public and private sectors to fight poverty. And we share the benefits of a collective impact that results from our efforts. Mary Hortsmann also stressed that Shared Prosperity Philadelphia asks all Philadelphians to find a role – to be part of a shared plan that calls on every citizen to recognize that we have a real crisis.  What can you do to help fight poverty? Make a commitment to get involved and sign on to the Shared Prosperity Philadelphia work. The Shared Prosperity work touches on:

  • Jobs and Trainings
  • Access to Benefits
  • Early Learning
  • Housing Security
  • Economic Security

So what can you do?

With the plethora of trauma and resilience experts using the ACEs Connection forum, we are posting the draft of Trauma-Informed Guide to Creating Public Policy document to ask for your feedback.  We will be incorporating members’ feedback into the document. The Mayor’s Office has agreed for us to present those guidelines to them and to allow us to help them implement these guidelines into the public policy making process. 

  • What questions come up after reading this?
  • Are there pieces that need to be added?
  • What should be omitted?
  • How can we make this as user-friendly as possible?
  • What specific public policies would you like to see this lens applied to?


Your help is integral in developing a comprehensive tool for policymakers and advocates alike!


We thank you for your help and look forward to your comments.


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Comments (3)

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This is a very exciting project! Thank you for tackling such an important process and opening it up to all members!


A question that is coming up in our city/county ACEs Connection groups is how to effectively engage local Board of Supervisors through awareness building, advocacy, and funding for trauma-informed systems change, with the additional intent of advancing to statewide policy change.


Since your project addresses many issues of system/organizational change, I also wanted to make sure you have seen the San Diego County (CA) Health and Human Services Agency Trauma-Informed Systems Policy Statement, posted on the San Diego County ACEs Connection Group.


Alicia St. Andrews

Community Manager

ACEs Connection

Last edited by Alicia St. Andrews
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