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Help NM become a leader in child well-being

Rick Bailey

Our state is poised to take a vital leadership role. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been part of a national dialogue for over 20 years, since Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted their ground-breaking study in the 1990s.

While this public awareness has been important to our understanding of the social and economic consequences of ACEs, and we are making great strides in responses to the crisis, we still have yet to translate that effort into preventative action.

Now, we in New Mexico have an opportunity to become a national leader in data-driven, holistically structured, community-focused action aimed directly at combatting the sources of ACEs, rather than responding to them once they have occurred.

Senate Bill 370 would establish the Anna Age Eight Institute at Northern New Mexico College for the study and prevention of childhood and family trauma. The institute gets its name from the book by Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney and Mr. Dominic Cappello, who will serve as the institute’s leaders.

Many have asked “Why Northern New Mexico College?” Why would a small public college in Española and El Rito engage in a statewide innovative initiative like this? Put simply, our college serves a community in Rio Arriba County that is no stranger to the emotional and financial impact of ACEs. But we are also a community – and a college – that has shown great resilience in the face of adversity. We sit at the epicenter of some of the biggest social and economic challenges in the country, but we are a community coming together in an inspiring way. Government officials, local businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and engaged citizens are uniting to create an environment that minimizes the likelihood of ACEs. We also plan on partnering with higher education institutions throughout the state to serve as anchor supports for the institute’s county projects that will follow.

Sen. Bill Soules from Doña Ana and Rep. Gail Armstrong from Socorro are co-sponsoring Senate Bill 370, and deserve praise for leading this bipartisan effort. We could not have asked for more courageous and compassionate champions.

Please lend your support to our effort. When – not if – this institute reaches its full potential, the long-term moral and fiscal benefits of preventing ACEs and family trauma will be both measurable and meaningful. As state and community leaders, we owe this not only to our most vulnerable citizens, but also to our future health as a state. Let us become the national leaders in this effort and elevate New Mexico as the beacon of hope we are meant to be.

Rick Bailey is the president of Northern New Mexico College.