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ACEs Panel

On September 19th, The Phoenix Club of Nashville hosted a panel discussion on the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), with a specific focus on their relevance in the workplace. The event, which attracted over 100attendees, was hosted by Baker Donelson and moderated by Richard Kennedy, executive director of the TN Commission on Children & Youth. Panelists included Judge Sheila Calloway,Juvenile Court of Metro Nashville & Davidson County; Brad Palmertree, director of advocacy and trauma-informed care at The Family Center and Dr. Seth Scholer, professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

ACEs are potentially traumatic events experienced as a child that can have negative, lasting effects on one’s health and well-being. Such experiences may include physical, emotional or sexual abuse; parental divorce; household mental illness or incarceration of a parent/guardian.

“Driven by our mission to benefit underserved youth and motivated to maximize the impact of our grants, we naturally became very interested in ACEs work,” said Walton Denton, a Phoenix Club member who helped to organize the event. “We see multiple groups in our city uniting to ward off future problems by identifying and addressing their root causes. The Phoenix Club saw an opportunity to spread awareness within the business community, which will be a direct beneficiary of this work.”

The panelists outlined many ways in which companies can incorporate ACEs work in support of employees and their families. Noting that people are molded by their experiences, Judge Calloway explained, “It is critical that we change the narrative from ‘What is wrong with this person?’ to ‘What has happened to this person?’”

Brad Palmertree underlined the critical importance of family and medical leave, the positive effects of on-site childcare and the opportunity to train human resources professionals in ACEs principles. Dr. Seth Scholer highlighted a new screening algorithm that Vanderbilt is testing in pediatric primary care, funded by the State of Tennessee Department of Health, that could be adopted for use in corporate and other settings.

“A 2016 study on ACEs in Tennessee found that 61% of participants had at least one ACE and 27% had three or more,” explained Richard Kennedy. “Through Building Strong Brains Tennessee, a public-private partnership, and organizations such as ACE Nashville, Tennessee is taking the lead in adopting new strategies and allocating resources where they will be most effective.”

Following the panel discussion, Phoenix Club members Scott Matthews and Ben Madonia presented a grant to Hank Clay, CEO of Communities in Schools of Tennessee, in support of their ongoing effort to combat chronic absenteeism in schools.

Through its panel discussions on relevant issues impacting youth in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, The Phoenix Club seeks to foster discussion, promote thought leadership and enhance the most promising philanthropic work taking place within our community.


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