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ELIOT, Maine – The study of Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, is at the forefront of current research on trauma, toxic stress and their impact on disease and disorder later in life. The goal of the Pinetree Institute’s newly created Master Trainer Series is to carry the message of ACEs and the effect of toxic stress to every sector of the community, adapting the approach we take to education, health services, law enforcement, counseling, rehabilitation and social work.

Adverse Childhood Experiences are instances of abuse or neglect suffered by children which can have a negative impact on health outcomes later in life. Repeated activation of a child’s stress response systems can create a cycle known as “toxic stress,” which impedes development and leads to negative health outcomes including depression and substance use disorder later in life. Understanding the effects of ACEs can help caregivers anticipate the needs of at-risk children, inform the way medical professionals administer care and allow ordinary citizens to be more aware and sensitive to the side effects of trauma in our friends and neighbors.

“An informed community is a stronger community,” said Bradford C. Paige, President and CEO of Kennebunk Savings, the series’ sponsor. “The Master Trainer Series is meant for local stakeholders and engaged citizens – to provide them with the latest research, put it into the context of the struggles our communities face, and empower them to move us forward.”

Kennebunk Savings’ Spotlight Fund was created in 2016 to focus a dedicated portion of the bank’s charitable giving toward a critical community issue – in this case, substance use disorder. In 2020, the bank has committed to donating $150,000 for programs aimed at community education and barrier reduction for those in recovery. Fostering a wider understanding of ACEs is a significant aspect of that plan. “Community education is critical,” said Dr. Larry McCullough, the Pinetree Institute’s founder. “We want to tell everybody we can, and then we want them to tell everybody else.”

The initial class of 30 Master Trainers was selected from nominated educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, justice system personnel, medical professionals, and others working with individuals and families impacted by ACEs. The virtual initiative began September 10, 2020 with an orientation, followed by three day-long sessions conducted by Dr. Rob Anda, one of the authors of the original ACEs research, and Laura Porter, a leader in the field of community implementation. The newly minted Master Trainers will be tracked for three years as they conduct their own trainings and work to further the message of ACEs and their impact throughout their organizations and surrounding communities. A second wave of “Community Champions” will be trained by the Pinetree Institute in the coming months.

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