Imelda Dacones, MD, and Don Mordecai, MD, in USA Today Story About Preventing and Treating Trauma in Children


Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to prevent and treat trauma in children were highlighted in a recent USA Today feature story. Those initiatives range from developing health complexity scores that could possibly lead to better interventions, to improving student and staff resilience and connecting schools to clinical and community health programs and trauma resources.

Imelda Dacones, MD

The initiatives were among the solutions discussed last month at the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy’s “Addressing Trauma in School-Aged Children” Forum, which featured speakers such as Northwest Permanente President and CEO Imelda Dacones, MD, and Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for Mental Health and Wellness. Dr. Dacones spoke on a panel that included former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD.

In Oregon, where Dr. Dacones is based, nearly 20 percent of children have experienced at least four adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which make them four times more likely to experience depression in their lifetimes. “That’s the power of the knowledge and science behind adverse childhood experiences,” says Dr. Dacones.

To address the issue, Northwest Permanente is developing a “health complexity” score that is made up of “medical complexity” and “social complexity” scores. Using the scores would sometimes eliminate the need to go through long interviews, which can trigger traumatic memories. The scores also would help connect people with social organizations and develop a system to help Kaiser Permanente study the types of interventions that work.

The article notes that Kaiser Permanente has invested nearly $9 million over the past four years to prevent and treat trauma in children. For example, Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative provides funding to improve student and staff resilience connect schools to clinical and community mental health programs and trauma resources. More than 50 schools, serving 25,500 students across Kaiser Permanente regions have piloted projects to improve the well-being of children.

“If we can prevent or treat trauma early in a child’s life, we may have a better chance of preventing the greater burden of chronic illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, and heart disease,” says Dr. Mordecai.

To read the complete article, visit the USA Today website.