Maine Update 2014 – 2015

Read the start of the Maine Story here (1997 – 2013)

At a recent retreat for a dozen members of the Maine Resilience Building Network (MRBN), Sue Mackey Andrews asked participants whether they had driven that day, and if so, whether they had buckled their seatbelts.

Every hand went up.

Then she posed a challenge: “How do we make resilience a ‘seatbelt question’—that is, getting it into public policy, kicking the conversation up a notch?”

For MRBN, which was launched in 2012 by a half-dozen people doing ACE-related work and has since ballooned to 350 members, the June 2015 retreat marked a turning point—a shift to a new governance model and a chance to consider the network’s sustainability, impact and reach.

A consultant guided the group through questions such as “Who are we? Where are we going? And how are we going to get there? If we continue to grow the [ACEs and resilience] movement, will we always need a MRBN, or will we eliminate the need for such a network?”

Waterville Gorilla Team
Maine’s Waterville Gorilla Team, with teeshirts “YOU can change your story!”, viewing ACE & Resilience display

For now, MRBN is staying put—albeit, with a new leadership structure, a team of four to eight people who will guide the network. Each member of the leadership team will also be part of a subcommittee linked to the network’s projects: an upcoming statewide conference; a speakers’ bureau; the website; a public relations campaign.

Sue Mackey Andrews, MRBN’s co-facilitator, says she’s proud of the network’s growth and diversity; its members work in behavioral health and medicine, child development, mental health, child advocacy, domestic violence services, juvenile justice, law enforcement, education and faith communities.

By the fall of 2015, MRBN expects to have reached 6,000 people across the state through its outreach and education efforts: ACE and Resilience Summits, on-site trainings and technical assistance sessions, all of them free to participants.

One question for the new leadership team is whether to begin charging for MRBN-provided training; this would help reduce the network’s dependence on foundation money, but it could be a roadblock in a state still struggling out of the recession.

“A lot of people have been trained in the basics now,” says Leslie Forstadt,  the network’s co-facilitator and associate professor with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “How do we push this to the next level?”

Dr. Rob Anda
Rob Anda, co-principal investigator of the 1998 ACE Study, speaks at Maine ACEs Conference

One answer is a two-day statewide ACEs and Resiliency Conference, scheduled for November and featuring some “rock stars” of the field—Rob Anda, co-principal investigator of the 1998 ACE Study; Ken Ginsburg, a Philadelphia pediatrician and international expert in teens and resilience; Jane Stevens, journalist and creator of ACEsConnection, the social networking site. Mackey Andrews and Forstadt hope that at least 300 people will attend.

Mackey Andrews notes other triumphs of the past year: a breakthrough with the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which chose “On the Path of Well-Being: Adversity, Poverty and Resilience” as the theme of their May 2015 conference and brought Andrew Garner, clinical professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, as a keynote speaker. Garner is an expert on epigenetics, the mechanism through which environment shapes the expression of genes.

Through partnerships with agencies including Maine Behavioral HealthCare, and THRIVE, the state’s two federally funded trauma initiatives, MRBN has created a menu of professional development workshops ranging from 45-minute grand rounds presentations to more intensive six-hour trainings. ACES awareness, Mackey Andrews said, “is permeating health care in a variety of ways: behavioral health, rural health centers and public health.”

But not everyone jumped enthusiastically aboard the ACEs train. Mackey Andrews noted that some leaders in early childhood education were resistant to hosting workshops; when she pushed them to learn the reason why, they said they found the topic of ACEs too depressing.

“We’ve had to work hard to overcome that. Our focus on resilience from the get-go has really helped, by saying, ‘Here’s this information. It’s an opportunity, not a death sentence.’ How do we make that clear to people and get them excited about the work?”

Poster Presentation from University of Maine School of Social Work
“Adverse Childhood Experiences in Maine: An Assessment of the Educational System as a Resource to Address Childhood Trauma” – The University of Maine School of Social Work

As MRBN continues to grow, consistency throughout the network and its partners has become a bigger concern. More than once, Mackey Andrews has had to confront a member using ACE data collection irresponsibly, without proper training or in the absence of adequate support for participants.

While MRBN can’t control the use of ACEs as a screening tool, being part of the network means using the tool and any resulting information in ways that do not further participants’ trauma or shame—and that are focused on resilience and strength, Mackey Andrews said.

Funding is a perpetual scramble. While MRBN has been supported from its inception by the Maine-based Bingham Program, has received money from two other foundations and depends on “in kind” contributions of time, facilities and support, there is never quite enough to accomplish what its founders envision: a thriving speakers’ bureau; a 30-hour-a-week paid leader; an administrative assistant.

One of the biggest realizations from MRBN’s first years was that, to achieve impact and real change, exposure and training must be more than a one-time event.

“You don’t just go out and ‘spray and pray,’” Mackey Andrews says. “You don’t go out and do trainings and think you’ve solved the problem.” More and more, the network helps local organizations to take the next steps after an initial “ACEs and resilience” session. “People are asking how to take this work forward. Our on-site discussion helps them to consider local needs and opportunities, identify partners and weave their ACEs prevention and resilience promotion into existing efforts.”

It’s clear to both Mackey Andrews and Forstadt that MRBN has made a dent. Preliminary data from a 2014 update of the 2010 Maine ACEs Survey show that more respondents are aware of ACEs and that this knowledge is changing their work.

Recently, Mackey Andrews was testifying before the education committee of the Maine legislature. “I said, ‘How many of you know about ACEs?’” Mackey used the acronym on purpose; she didn’t spell it out. Seven of the eight committee members present raised their hands. “That was awesome.”

Maine Timeline - click the year to expand

Maine Timeline - click year to view highlights

  • Passamaquoddy Tribe receives a five-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the Kmihqitahasultipon (“We Remember”) Project to create a culturally competent, community-based system of care for children with emotional and behavioral disorders