Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Proclaimed June 26 “The Day of the Joyful Child”

On June 26, the ACE Awareness Foundation hosted a free, family-friendly event to raise awareness of the innovative work and collaboration happening around Memphis to help families overcome the trauma associated with adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. The event, held from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at Crosstown Concourse, was entitled “Reclaiming Joy Through Prevention and Healing”  and was also a way to welcome the foundation’s new executive director, Renee Wilson-Simmons, DrPH.

Proclaiming it The Day of the Joyful Child, in his speech to the attendees, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that he recognized the importance of promoting trauma-informed approaches to health and mental health efforts for children and families. An ex-officio member of the ACE Task Force of Shelby County, Mayor Luttrell told the audience that he was proud to make the proclamation and encouraged members of the community to support local efforts to interrupt the cycle of childhood trauma.

Younger guests enjoyed face painting and balloon animals with Parties By Pickles, plus great food from Sweet Potato Baby.

“The most valuable asset we have is our children, and it’s crucial that we do all we can to raise awareness about the dangers of adverse childhood experiences,” said Mayor Luttrell. “I am so grateful for all the hard work the ACE Awareness Foundation does to bring attention to this issue and the solutions they help provide to help the families across our community.”

The evening also included performances by Playback Memphis, Genius Unlimited, and music by DJ Siphne Aaye; a drawing for autographed copies of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, MD; the premiere showing of Reclaiming Joy, a video on the history, mission, and achievements of the ACE Awareness Foundation and the ACE Task Force of Shelby County; and a fully staffed children’s area with creative movement, relaxation exercises, and face painting.

Several organizational partners including the Universal Parenting Places, the Family Safety Center, the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, Books from Birth, Momentous Institute, Perea Preschool, and The Exchange Club Family Center offered attendees a wealth of resources on supportive services in the region and answering questions about their programs.



Memphis ACEs Innovation Highlighted in Congressional Briefing on Childhood Trauma and Substance Abuse

From left to right: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Sen. Heidi Heikamp (D-ND), Frank Kros, and Renée Wilson-Simmons (photo courtesy of

Earlier this month, Renée Wilson-Simmons was one of several guests invited to present on ACEs research and innovations at a Congressional briefing hosted by U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). In her remarks, Dr. Wilson-Simmons highlighted partnerships, support, and training models central to our progress in Memphis, including the Universal Parenting Places and the ACE Aware Community Partnership Initiative training program.

As part of the briefing, Sen. Durbin spoke about the need for trauma-informed policy in response to the opioid crisis. In addition, pediatrician and author Dr. Nadine Burke Harris discussed the research that drove her observations in The Deepest Well; Frank Kros, COO of The Children’s Guild, spoke about the group’s unique, child-centered approach to managing schools; and Marlo Nash, director of policy for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, moderated the session.

The primary purpose of the briefing was to garner support for trauma-related provisions in the Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680), many of which are taken from or closely tied to the goals of the Heitkamp-Durbin Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act (S. 774), including creation of a task force on trauma, and grants for trauma-informed schools.

In a clip from the briefing, Sen. Heitkamp offers a moving explanation of why the issue of trauma is so important to her: it gives her hope. Here is some of what she had to say:

“We’ve been dealing with pervasive poverty. We’ve been dealing with problems of addiction, social interventions on almost every major social problem for decades. We keep doing and trying [and still] we are in crisis in this country. So despite all of that effort, all of that good-meaning kind of work, we have not solved this problem. […]  I think that every time we get some additional information, every time we get some additional sense of hopefulness that we can solve these problems, it builds our enthusiasm to do it.”

The Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor & Pensions) Committee approved the opioid bill with the trauma provisions on April 24. A section-by-section of the Heitkamp-Durbin Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act (S. 774) with provisions of the Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680) highlighted is available here.


ACEs in the News

Study shows most pregnant women and their docs like ACEs screening
Would pregnant women participate in surveys from their doctors asking them about whether they had experienced trauma in their childhood? In surveying moms-to-be at two Northern California Kaiser sites, clinicians discovered that the women were receptive to filling out an adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) survey, according to a study that was published earlier this year in the Journal of Women’s Health. Read more at

Rural areas have the highest suicide rates and fewest mental health workers
There is a severe shortage of mental health workers across the U.S., but the problem is most pronounced in rural areas. There isn’t a single psychiatrist in 65 percent of nonmetropolitan counties, according to a report from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine released this month. Further, almost half of those counties don’t have a psychologist, either. Read more in Huffington Post.

Pediatrician who exposed Flint water crisis shares her ‘story of resistance’
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan, knew that the city had changed its water source the previous year. But when a friend mention the possibility that the city’s drinking water had been tainted by lead, the doctor’s alarm bells were raised; exposure to lead can result in long-term cognitive and behavioral problems, especially in children. As she began reviewing her patients’ medical record, she noticed that the percentage of children with elevated lead levels had increased after the water switch. But when she shared her data at a hospital press conference, government officials tried to discredit her. Read more via


Mark Your Calendars:

July 11, 2018: In a free webinar entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences: Implications for Policymakers and Practitioners, David Murphey, PhD, research fellow and DataBank director at Child Trends, will review the science of childhood trauma and the prevalence of childhood experiences that can create it. Register online at

Aug 13-16, 2018: Register now for the 30th Annual Crimes Against Children Conference,  presented by the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and the Dallas Police Department. The Crimes Against Children Conference will provide attendees with practical and interactive instruction for fighting crimes against children and helping children heal. Learn more at