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Park Rapids hosts second ACEs Summit

Angela Graham, a member of the ACEs MN Program which hosted the Aug. 30 event with CHI St. Joseph’s Health, said participants included teachers, social workers, law enforcement, probation officers, public health officials, mental health providers and community members.

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About 350 people attended the second annual Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Summit, held on Tuesday in Park Rapids.

Angela Graham, a member of the ACEs MN Program which hosted the event with CHI St. Joseph’s Health, said participants included teachers, social workers, law enforcement, probation officers, public health officials, mental health providers and community members.

The purpose of the conference, entitled “Steps to Resilience,” was to help people understand ACEs and provide strategies for dealing with the effects of trauma.

ACEs are traumatic events that happen before a person is 18 years of age and include physical, emotional, sexual abuse, a history of mental illness in the home, drug/alcohol abuse in the home, incarceration of a parent, domestic violence or divorce.

ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse and violence.

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Connection is key

Keynote speaker Shaun Floerke delved into the nature of ACEs, but also explored research-based practices that everyone can implement to meet the stresses of modern-day life.

The brain’s defense system is rudimentary, he explained. A threat or trigger can send surges of cortisol through the body. It’s beneficial when you're facing a bear, your car flips over or your church is on fire, but constant cortisol is detrimental.

In order to discharge stress buildup, Floerke said people must connect with others and with their own bodies through movement, music or whatever works.

Humans are wired in our brains for connection, Floerke said. Quality relationships with quality people have a profound effect on mental health. “The opposite of addiction is connection,” he said.

Inadequate sleep is the equivalent of alcohol impairment; most adults need seven hours of sleep at minimum.

Floerke advised participants to spend time in nature, “our best regulator.”

He urged the men in the audience to repeat this: “It’s OK to ask for help.”

“I would argue attention is your life,” he said, adding we must learn to be selective about what holds our attention.

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Other speakers

Ryan Carroll and Hayley Hillstrom, both with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Overdose Response Strategy in Minnesota, presented national and local drug trends to the large audience.

In breakout sessions, former students Laura Chase, Arriana Cotton and Kasarra Adams shares their stories of obstacles and resilience.

Joe Johnson of Parenting Solutions talked about “the art of dealing hope” to the families he serves.

Laura Baum-Parr, a school psychologist, presented ways of self-care to avoid compassion fatigue. Kiah Staloch, a licensed psychologist, spoke about “vicarious trauma” and strategies to avoid burnout.

Kay King shared five things to promote good mental health in the workplace in her session. She’s an adult community educator for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota. Renee Labat, a youth program coordinator at NAMI Minnesota, taught a certification class about Question, Persuade, Refer – the three steps anyone can take to prevent suicide.

Keila McCracken with Peacemaker Resources introduced participants to non-violence communication.

Linsey McMurrin is statewide coordinator of NEAR Sciences at Family Wise Services. She gave a brief overview of how people can transcend and overcome adversity both individually and collectively.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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