Third annual trauma conference at Edinboro University

Kristian Biega, Contributing writer

The number of children in the world today that have suffered a traumatic incident is on the rise. People do not realize how close these issues truly are to the communities across America. It is for this reason that the Crawford and Erie County Human Services along with Edinboro University and Peace4Crawford began working together to educate members of the community.
Monday, Sept. 26, will mark the Third Annual Trauma Informed & Resilient Communities Conference. This year’s conference will be held at Edinboro University.
The goal of the conference is to raise awareness and education for members of northwestern Pennsylvania communities about projects and advocacies for victims of trauma. This year’s title is “Building and Sustaining Trauma Informed Communities.”
It will feature Matthew Sandusky, founder and executive director of peaceful hearts foundation, as its keynote speaker. Sandusky is the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky as he speaks on his own childhood trauma.
The day will also include many breakout sessions and lectures from members of the Crawford County area as well as professors, project directors and mental health specialists to lead discussion on the topics at hand.
A few years ago, Crawford County became aware of the Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES), which began in California. ACES shows a correlation between childhood trauma and risks such as mental illness, addiction, criminal justice involvement and even physical health.
“The study in California was performed over the course of two years on adults who filled out confidential surveys on their childhood experiences during routine physicals,” Joe Barnhart, program manager for Crawford County Human Services, said.
The ACES test is made up of 10 questions that deal with topics such as parents’ divorce, abuse and incarcerated family members. Scores of four or more “yes’s” indicate high risk for problems later in life.
“These tests and data are what got our interest, because it affects social services and the whole community,” said Barnhart. “This gave us a way to identify trauma, now we need to educate communities and professionals, so that they understand how someone has been affected by trauma and how to understand their secondary trauma.”
As much as Barnhart and his team want the conference to be successful, the venue has posed a few problems. Edinboro University can only accommodate about 300 people, making it difficult to have everyone necessary in attendance.
After just a few hours, all available reservations were full and the conference was effectively “sold out.” While a problem for this year’s conference, this is a successful step for the program because it shows an increase in interest and willingness to be informed about childhood trauma.
“I hope the program will continue to grow, but as it does, they will have to move it to another location in the future,” Barnhart said.