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Today, the Governor Wolf’s Office of Advocacy and Reform (OAR) encouraged Pennsylvanians to focus on their mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond. Pennsylvania is a pioneering state in becoming trauma-informed and healing-centered and committed to a comprehensive strategy to better respond to the needs of commonwealth residents who have had adverse childhood or other serious, traumatic experiences in order to prevent and heal trauma.

Prolonged exposure to adversity, stress, and trauma – particularly in early childhood – can cause lasting harm and contribute to some of the most pressing social and health challenges. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on health and productivity is equivalent to ​$1.3 trillion a year with consequences in many public systems, including criminal justice, health, education, and human services.

“When trauma becomes a normal part of life or embedded in communities, it can destroy hope, making the change process even more difficult. Collaborative transformation is needed at every level of society – in policy, systems, communities, families, and individuals. We hope that May 2022 is another step forward in the movement for cross-sector and cross-state collaboration. There is still time for every Pennsylvanian to join the nationwide #WeHealUS movement by attending a free event or following the conversation online,” said Maryann McEvoy, M.Ed., executive director of OAR and Child Advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more important for Pennsylvania to invest in initiatives that provide support for vulnerable Pennsylvanians. Governor Tom Wolf’s budget proposal calls for $36.6 million increase in county mental health base funds as well as an additional $40 million in one-time federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to support efforts to provide critical behavioral health services. Additionally, the #WeHealUS campaign bans together every state in the U.S. for a unified, consistent, and impactful information and education campaign with events and information available every day throughout May.

The collaboration includes “Contributing Partners” who have created content and will share resources during the month of May via virtual events. In Pennsylvania businesses, organizations, associations, agencies, corporations, municipalities, and advocacy groups are offering informational webinars or trainings, panel discussions, film screenings, and yoga or mindfulness sessions. In all, 30 unique, virtual sessions are available in the commonwealth through the contributions of approximately 15 contributing partners. These events are free of charge and open for every Pennsylvanian to attend, with topics such as “Creating Trauma-Informed Workspaces,” “The Impact of War on Children: Consider the Trauma of War in Ukraine,” “Lunch Break Yoga Reset,” and “Tattoos As Therapy: Exploring the Role of Tattoos for the Trauma Survivor.” A full listing of events is available at OAR’s website.

During the month-long #WeHealUS campaign, “Sharing Partners” have committed to helping share trauma aware and mental health messaging through social media posts and online resources. These partners will help PA residents recognize, understand, and address the effects of trauma on the lives of individuals, families, and communities using the following hashtags: #PAmentalhealthawareness, #PAtraumainformedawareness, #PAHealing, and #WeHealUS.

For more information about OAR, visit the website and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Shannon Zimmerman, Office of Advocacy and Reform, shannzimme@pa.gov

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