CHARLESTON — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates are looking forward to the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health presenting screening protocols for adverse childhood experiences (ACES) as permitted by a law created in 2020. ACES are linked to negative impacts on childhood development and increased risk of chronic disease in adults.
“We are grateful to Dr. Ayne Amjad and her public health team for working on the protocols, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has health and economic impacts that increase the risks of ACES,” said Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, the lead sponsor of House Bill 4773 from the 2020 regular legislative session. “The Legislature understands the impact Adverse Childhood Experiences can have on mental health and physical health, so I’m grateful to see this effort moving toward the finish line.”
House Bill 4773, which passed the full Legislature by near-unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate, was proposed by the Select Committee on Children and Families. It allows the Bureau of Public Health to develop ACES screening protocols. The law also allows a workgroup to provide a flexible collaboration in those efforts. Established protocols will assist West Virginia medical professionals and others connect children with appropriate services that can limit further negative health outcomes.
The law included a goal of hearing from the workgroup in the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance by June 2021, but Zukoff said the strain of COVID-19 delayed those results.
“This is a big win for West Virginia families,” Zukoff said. “These recommendations may be coming a little later than we had hoped for, but this bill had no mandate and no guarantee for the Bureau of Public Health to do this work.
“To hear that our efforts to provide all health care provider organizations throughout the state with suggestions for how best to detect and treat childhood trauma is incredibly gratifying.”
Officials from the Bureau recently provided an update on their progress and expect to have ACES screening protocols ready to present by July.
“I am so proud of the bipartisan efforts of our Legislature that made this possible, and the subsequent actions by the Department to help us invest in West Virginia’s most vulnerable population,” said Assistant Majority Leader Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette.
West Virginia will be a national leader by establishing these screening protocols, joining California as the only other state with established protocols and screenings.