Premera grants take on early childhood trauma

By Paul Hollie
Friday, December 15, 2017
Alaska Childrens Trust

Premera's Social Impact program has just announced its final round of grants for its first year. Those grants, eight in all, bring the company's community commitment to roughly $2 million aimed at addressing behavioral health.

The grants range from $30,000 to $220,000-a worthwhile investment. But what the dollars don't indicate is the long-term commitment to overall health and well-being by our community partners and by our company.

Alaska Children's Trust, Childhaven, Cocoon House, Community Youth Services, Navos, Pioneer Human Services, Senior Services of Snohomish County, and Wellspring Family Services. Those are our newest partners in the support of those impacted by behavioral health issues.

Behavioral health is a huge space, but one area that is of particular interest to us is Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACES. Many problems people encounter later in life can be connected to early childhood trauma. Research shows that if a child's early years are filled with adverse experiences like domestic violence, neglect, abuse, or parents with mental or physical health issues, the long-term impact can be severe. All of these challenges jeopardize the child's brain development and potentially the child's future mental and physical health.

This is why we've partnered with non-profit agencies that are using their expertise to further train their staff, volunteers, and even other groups. We want to give these organizations the tools to better understand the context of trauma that people are coming from. They can then better address the needs of kids and families who end up on the street or people who keep seeking treatment for physical problems but face behavioral issues that stop them from getting healthy.

As we discussed in an earlier post on the Social Impact program, behavioral health tends to get less attention than physical health. Experts say nearly one in five adults in the U.S. has some sort of mental health condition, not including substance abuse, and the impact ranges from no or mild impairment to severely disabling.  

“It is clear that behavioral health is inseparable from physical health,” says Dr. Shawn West, one of Premera's medical directors. “If you are severely depressed, you will not be able to effectively manage your diabetes, control physical pain, and you may self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs which can lead to addiction.”  

It's also clear that behavioral health issues cut a wide swath through our communities, hitting home for many of us at Premera. We feel we can do good in taking on this issue. We have a lot to learn but we also have a lot to contribute.

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