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DHSS Policy on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and childhood brain development 

The 30th Legislature passed SB 105; which among other health care policies included statutory language  updating the state policy related to children found in AS 47.05.060.

The Department of Health and Social Services, through the language in SB 105, has developed a policy statement to acknowledge and take into account the principles of early childhood and youth brain development. The policy statement ensures DHSS will act in a trauma-informed manner.

As DHSS provides broad-based safety nets; it is critical that all employees understand the impacts of trauma, but also recognize that the services our department provides can help mitigate factors related to ACEs.


Overview of ACEs:

ACEs are “adverse childhood experiences” that impair development of children’s brains and bodies so profoundly that the effects persist throughout a person’s life and are passed on to the next generation. Studies have shown that ACEs can have significant impacts on both physical and mental health throughout a person’s life. 2 out of 3 Alaskan adults have an ACE score of 1 or more.1

DHSS is made up of eight divisions. Many of them are well-versed in ACEs and are trauma informed in their day-to-day activities. The Overview of Programs tab goes into more detail on what each division has implemented.

Watch this video: ACE's Primer featuring educational media from Paper Tigers and Resilience: The Biology of Stress & the Science of Hope:


1 Adverse Childhood Experiences: Overcoming ACEs in Alaska. Prepared for the Alaska Mental Health Board and the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.