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Dayton Conference On Pediatric Trauma Draws Hundreds

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoke at the Building Resiliency pediatric mental health conference in Dayton Sept. 26. [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]
Ohio Gov Mike DeWine Speaks at Conference [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley headlined a pediatric mental health summit called “Building Resiliency,” in Dayton on Sept. 26 that drew more than 800 attendees from across the state.

Dayton was chosen as the site for the meeting because of recent trauma inflicted on that community from mass shooting and a deadly tornado, DeWine said.

ideastream's Be Well Health reporter Marlene Harris-Taylor was there and spoke with All Things Considered host Glenn Forbes about the governor's plans to help support the mental health needs of Ohio's children.

Gov. DeWine and Mayor Whaley kicked off the day with comments to the attendees. What was the focus of those remarks and how do they set the tone for this summit?

The governor said that in Dayton, kids were really traumatized this summer. There was a mass shooting incident and a major tornado that inflicted horrendous damage to this area. So, when he got a call from some hospital officials here suggesting a conference to address childhood trauma, he thought this was a fitting location. But he also stressed that childhood trauma is a state-wide issue.

“Ohio has a challenge and the challenge is, if you look at the trauma, we rate unfortunately pretty high in regard to trauma to children,” DeWine said. “A lot of this is driven by the opiate epidemic that we see in the state. Some of it's driven by poverty and some of it's driven by a number of other things."

Overcoming that trauma is what this conference is all about, DeWine said.

There were about 800 people in attendance. Who were some of attendees and what occupations did they represent?

The people were from all over the state. Some of them were educators or from law enforcement. Some social workers and health officials were there, but it was also open to parents. It was free to anybody who wanted to come, they just had to sign up. The organizers said they ran out of room and had to turn people away.

The forum was broken up into three sessions. The first session was about preventing the occurrence of trauma. The second was about intervention and treatment. Then the last session of the day was staying well, what to do next: how to keep people from experiencing trauma in the future.

During the morning session — one of the panelists was from Northeast Ohio, from a mental health agency called Ohio Guidestone. Holli Ritzenthaler, [Guidestone] assistant vice president, talked about a new program that they will be kicking off with University Hospitals' Rainbow Babies [and Children’s] Hospital next month. All children, up to 5 years old, will be screened for trauma when they go for their well-child visit at the hospital. Guidestone counselors have been overseeing a similar program at Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services Inc., (NEON) clinics for the past two years, she said.

During lunch, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted spoke. That was significant to you. Why? What did he say?

He spoke in a really casual setting and he really spoke from his heart. He talked about his own background and he said that he spent some time the foster care system as a child, which I didn't know.

He also said many kids in the foster care system are at greater risk of experiencing trauma than other children.

This is really personal for him.

The final session of the afternoon dealt with what to do next, where do they go from here. So, where do they go from here?

The governor said he hopes that everyone who attended the conference had one or two big takeaways they could take back to their own community. Also, the governor is going to push legislators to make real change on mental health in Ohio. He has a new proposal he says will tighten up gun laws in Ohio for people with mental health issues, especially the process for background checks.

“We want to set up a mechanism that protects people's due process — that doesn't just yank a gun away from someone,” DeWine said.  “We are gonna come forward with a very, very specific proposal that will build on the law that we already have in the state today. But it will allow families, will allow the police, when there is this ticking time bomb that's gonna go off and the person is going to hurt themselves or they're going to hurt someone else, and the family knows it, and everybody knows it. We want to give them an avenue to separate that individual from their guns,” he said.

DeWine said he plans to release all the details on the new proposal next week.

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.