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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Perspectives (July/August 2017)

Sara Merz, Executive Director

Last month I attended the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference—an incredible forum to learn the most innovative work happening across the country and connect with the people doing it. Two years ago at NACo’s Annual Conference, I learned about Nick Macchione’s Live Well San Diego initiative – so AHA brought him here to Wake County to speak.

Last year I saw the brand new film Resilience about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which drives the ACEs Resilience work we are now doing.

This year, the incoming president of NACo has chosen early childhood as the focal point for his year of leadership. This is already bringing information to county leaders across the country on child brain development, ways to support the people doing this work, and beginning the conversation on trauma-informed care in both early childhood settings and schools. Many have already been doing this work, but putting it center stage in front of county policy makers nationally is a big step to supporting practitioners to do more of what they want – including setting policy and directing new funding.

Another national initiative is called Stepping Up. Wake County has passed a resolution supporting this, as have 380 other jurisdictions across the country. It is collaborative work across law enforcement, corrections, and mental health services.

Jurisdictions that have been doing this work intensively for a number of years are seeing incredible results. For example, fewer mentally ill being arrested, which saves hours of booking time for law enforcement; and fewer people being taken to emergency rooms, which aren’t equipped to provide mental health services. It is also resulting in diversion from jails and appropriate sentencing, and all of these things either directly save money, or reduce workload for public servants working beyond capacity in understaffed agencies.

Thanks to all the local and national leaders doing such innovative work, and sharing it with each other.

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