Dr. Nadine Harris, the first ever Surgeon General of California, advocates universal screening for trauma for children in the state’s Medicaid program.
Dr. Harris’ idea is already making progress. In June, Governor Gavin Newsom approved a budget that provides roughly $45 million for trauma screenings and another $50 million to cover training for those who will administer the screenings. Dr. Harris noted that, if all the country’s children could undergo developmentally appropriate screenings for trauma, millions of tax dollars could be saved every year, and schools would be healthier, happier places for students and teachers.
Recent evidence confirms that when children experience certain types of childhood trauma, the impacts can fundamentally change their brain development and other aspects of physical, cognitive and emotional development. Consequently, efforts should focus on ensuring early detection of traumatic experiences.
Implementing universal trauma screenings is an understandably daunting proposition. It would be costly and require intense logistical planning, especially concerning what will be done with the results if universal trauma screenings become a reality. The benefits of such screenings, however, would far outweigh the logistical and financial costs. Not implementing screenings for childhood trauma would be more problematic than the challenges associated with the implementation. Too many modern societal problems, such as chronic disease and addictive behaviors, originate from ignorance about childhood trauma. However, with a trauma screening plan like the one in California, child serving systems could better work toward highly beneficial solutions.