United Way of Deschutes County Awarded a Three Year, $700 Thousand Central Oregon Health Council Grant


The Central Oregon Health Council (COHC) recently awarded a three-year, $700 thousand grant to TRACES (Trauma, Resilience and Adverse Childhood Experiences), supported by the United Way of Deschutes County — a collective action initiative, with a goal to improve health and wellbeing in Central Oregon by building resilience and helping people thrive.

TRACEs is a region-wide movement in Central Oregon that has been raising awareness and cultivating a culture of belonging by amplifying the incredible work being done by our regional partners who are addressing the components of trauma such as generational poverty, historical oppression and the enduring adverse childhood experiences accumulated in unresourced environments, i.e. health, school, employment and interpersonal relationships. We have discovered that the antidote to trauma is much more complex than building resilience alone.

Through this movement, more than 100 partnerships comprised of nonprofits, organizations and individuals in Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes Counties and on the lands of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have a shared agenda to nurture resilience, by investing resources and time to address the impacts of trauma within our diverse communities and explore culturally responsive practices to transform systems that will improve the ability of every one of us to thrive.

“We started to get interested in TRACEs three years ago because ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) play such a big part in the people and relationships we foster,” said Elysia Kiyija, program director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon.

The TRACEs movement in Central Oregon is about digging deep into the work of nurturing resilience. It’s about so much more than grit and bootstraps and working in silos. It means having more positive, caring relationships and community experiences. It means

co-creating communities where existing is not about building coping mechanisms into people to endure trauma and the ACEs, but taking action in uprooting the root causes of harm so everyone can thrive. It’s about supporting a massive partnership of individuals, organizations, schools and community groups working together to dream it, measure it, track it, celebrate it and learn together.

It’s about creating a place where we all belong.

When we talk about TRACEs we are talking about fundamental system change. It’s one of the reasons United Way has adapted to community needs by offering coordinating services for large-scale initiatives dedicated to system change. United Way, along with four community partners form the TRACEs steering committee — Better Together, Central Oregon Health Council, Early Learning Hub of Central Oregon and Littledeer-Evans Consulting — to help remove historical barriers for partners throughout the region.

“For decades, we have wrestled with painful human outcomes of broken systems. Education, healthcare, government decision-making: all of these must be fundamentally re-tooled so that the most vulnerable among us have a fair shot at success and the opportunity to thrive,” said Ken Wilhelm, executive director, United Way of Deschutes County.

The most important work, however, is about taking the time to learn, listen, relate, believe, respect the life experience of every person and to cultivate a culture of trust with our fellow community members who have been pushed to the edges for decades and even centuries. It is about seeing the invisible effects of our misaligned systems and how they influence people and organizations.

This second COHC grant requires TRACES and United Way to achieve specific targets and metrics each year, based on the initiative’s spectrum of prevention, which include Awareness & Learning, Strengthening Networks, Provider Training & Support and Policy & Practices. Because TRACES is not a single program, but rather a movement focused on creating conditions where various practices and frameworks are adopted, the focus is on outcomes. TRACES continues to work closely with region-wide partners on shared metrics by which resilience and trauma-informed care can be better understood, tracked and improved.

As the backbone organization for the TRACES initiative, United Way of Deschutes County is partnering with the community to guide vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, promoting shared measurement, building public will, advancing policy and mobilizing funding, as well as providing financial management for the project.

tracesco.org • 541-389-6507


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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