Montana ACEs & Resilience Resources

ACEs work in Montana

The University of Montana Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development partnered with the State Health Improvement Plan working group to develop a state-based resource on Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resiliency.

Adverse Childhood Experiences were acknowledged as a cross-sectional public health priority area in the 2019-2023 Montana State Health Improvement Plan, a plan that highlights statewide priorities for improving the health of Montanans. To learn more about the State Health Improvement Plan, visit A Healthier Montana

Resources on this site were provided by experts around Montana that focus on awareness, training and furthering education. The resources are organized by populations, such as children, families, or communities. The goal of this website is to highlight and promote Montana-specific resources. Additional tools will be added as they become available.

For more information, to get involved, or to add resources to this site, email Systems Improvement Office Plan Coordinator Anna Bradley. 

ACEs Timeline and Key Terms

Find your ACE Score on the Elevate Montana website now.

Adverse childhood experiences or adversity in adulthood are only one part of the equation for overall well-being. ACEs can have lasting impacts on brain development and function, brains can develop new pathways, and some effects can be reversed. One way to prevent the ongoing implications of ACEs is to build resilience, or one’s ability to respond to adversity. Increasing resilience is often low-cost and has a lasting impact.

While the resilience research is still new, also consider reflecting on your positive childhood experiences and the resiliency factors you developed as a result.

During your childhood, did you feel...?

  1. Able to talk to your family about feelings

  2. Your family stood by you during difficult times

  3. Enjoyment participating in community traditions

  4. A sense of belonging in high school

  5. Supported by friends

  6. At least two non-parent adults who took a genuine interest in you

  7. Safe and protected by an adult in your home

1995 to 1997 – The original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study was conducted in partnership with the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente. [1

2011- Montana includes the ACEs module on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). 

2012 - ChildWise Institute is established by Intermountain and project lead Todd Garrison as a non-profit that focuses on child well-being. [2]

2013 - ChildWise created Elevate Montana, an ACE-informed statewide initiative.

Western Montana hosts the ACEs Summit (225 attendees). 

2014 Montana becomes the 4th state to have ACEs Master Trainers.

Eastern Montana hosts the ACEs Summit (240 attendees). 

2015 - Representative Jessica Karjala sponsored House Bill 589 (MT 2015: 64th Session), which would have required state agencies to focus on preventing and reducing ACEs. The original bill and a revised version, H.B. 264, both died in committee). [3

Montana hosts the ACEs Summit (400 attendees). 

2017 - H.B. 118 (MT 2017: 66th Session), sponsored by Representative Jennifer Eck, sought to address suicide included the effects of toxic stress outlined in the ACEs study. [3]

2019 - Montana includes the HOPE (Health Outcomes of Positive Experience) module on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

2020 - Montana includes the A.C.E. module on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

2021 - Todd Garrison, a nationally recognized expert on helping children heal and thrive following traumatic experiences, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Montana State University.


[1] Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. 

[2] Hochman, A. (2016). Montana: ACEs Are Us. 

[3] Montana State Legislature. (2021). Bill Lookup Information.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
Traumatic life experiences such as abuse or neglect, witnessing or experiencing violence, or losing a parent due to incarceration or death occur before 18 years old. These events have been found to have a lasting life-long negative impact on these individuals' health and well-being. (Source: CDC)

The physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion is accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others. Burnout is often created by performing duties at an elevated level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or an overburdening workload that leads to debilitating exhaustion. (Source: APA

Compassion fatigue
Symptoms of burnout (such as physical exhaustion, negative thinking, decreased motivation, and satisfaction) due to exposure to continuous experience to people experienced trauma, often experienced by family members, caregivers, first responders, and helping professions. (Source: APA)

Compassion satisfaction
The pleasure and satisfying feeling that is often associated with helping others or doing your work well. People in these roles often leave the workplace feeling good about the work completed by providing healing, encouragement, positivity, and support. (Source: McGovern Medical School, University of Texas)

Historical trauma
Historical trauma is the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding across generations, including the lifespan, emanating from massive group trauma. Historical trauma is inherently linked to ethnocide and genocide directed at people of color, including black and indigenous individuals and communities.

Historical trauma may cause alterations to an individual's biology and makeup, leading to genetic risk and behavioral adaptations in future generations.

The effects of historical trauma may include involuntary recollections, nightmares, psychological distress, anger, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and numbing. Even individuals who do not present with obvious signs of historical trauma may be triggered under present-day circumstances. (Source: Linking Systems of Care: Montana with support from the National Native Children's Trauma Center and the work of Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart.)

Intergenerational trauma 
Trauma impacts experienced by the descendants of an individual who has experienced a traumatic event, such as the genocide of Native American and Jewish peoples or concentration camps of Asian Americans. Descendants often show symptoms of trauma such as "… shame, increased anxiety and guilt, a heightened sense of vulnerability and helplessness, low self-esteem, depression, suicidality, substance abuse, dissociation, hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, difficulty with relationships and attachment to others, difficulty in regulating aggression, and extreme reactivity to stress." (Source: APA)

Resilience - also known as psychological resilience, coping behaviors/skills
The process of adapting well in the face of trauma, adversity, or significant stress. This is done by utilizing an optimistic worldview and coping skills and the quality and quantity of social resources. (Source: APA)

Toxic stress
Intense, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment well into the adult years. (Source: Harvard Center for the Developing Child)

Any disturbing experience that results in significant fear, helplessness, dissociation, confusion, or other disruptive feelings is intense enough to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person's attitudes, behavior, and other aspects of functioning. (Source: APA)

An organizational framework that recognizes and responds to the impacts of trauma. The framework is built on the principles of creating a safe environment that has trust and transparency, support, collaboration, and empowerment of those most impacted. These cannot occur without a commitment to a deeper understanding of historical and systemic mistreatment and oppression. (Source: CDC)

Vicarious resilience
A restorative process that family members, caregivers, first responders, and helping professionals undergo when they can witness trauma survivors heal, recover, and reconcile with their trauma. (Source: Hernández, Gangsei, and Engstrom, 2007)

Vicarious trauma(tization) - also known as secondary trauma(tization)
Occupational impact of continuous contact with trauma survivors. The impact on the service provider is a change in their worldview, feelings of safety, and a decrease in hope. (Source: APA)

MT-based Resources

Parenting Resources

  • Linking Infants and Families to Supports (LIFTS) - A project of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies to link families to events, resources, and support across Montana.
  • Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies - Montana organization offering training, resources, and advocacy to improve outcomes for mothers and infants (ages 0-3).
  • Parenting Montana – An easy-to-use tool that supports a child’s success from birth through adolescence. The site provides age-specific tools for anyone parenting a child, including actions and sample phrases to support children experiencing tantrums, routine challenges, and stress.  In addition to age-specific tools, the website features a helpful podcast and how-to videos.
  • Montana Parent Magazine - A free local magazine that highlights activities, summer camps, family-friendly events, and parenting content from babies to college-age youth. 

Community-based Resources

  • National Native Children's Trauma Center – Montana-based organization that offers technical assistance to implement culturally appropriate trauma-informed services when working with American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children.
  • Montana 2-1-1 - Call line (dial 211) for where a trained specialist will help you find resources in your area or visit the mobile-friendly website to search a city's non-profit and government services. 
  • Connect Referral System - Web-based system for sending and receiving referrals.
  • Elevate Montana - Helena Affiliate – Providing training and support to improve the well-being of children across Montana counties.

Assessment Resources

  • Thrive for Montana - A free confidential online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) program for Montanans. The program helps people who want to take charge of their emotional well-being to lead happier, more satisfying lives by teaching them to deal with stress, depression, and anxiety. 
  • Experiences and Expressions Screener - A screening tool created by Linking Systems of Care in Montana to detect trauma and victimization in young people for youth-serving organizations. Two versions exist, one for children up to 8 and the other for youth ages 9-17.

Learning Resources

  • “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity." Dr. Nadine Burke Harris 

  • “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t).” Dr. Brené Brown

  • “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

  • "Be Child Wise Workbook." ChildWise Institute 

Find books at your local library.

Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245–258.

Montana Health Care Foundation: Loveland Consulting. (2018). Trauma-informed Approaches: Opportunities and Challenges in Montana.

Sege, R., Bethell, C., Linkenbach, J., Jones, J.A., Klika, B., and Pecora, P.J. (2017). Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.s) with H.O.P.E*: New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development (*Health Outcomes of Positive Experience).

Mother Love by Health Mothers, Healthy BabiesA movement developed to give voice to the stories and experiences of mothers. Whether listening to an episode of the podcast, attending a live (or virtual) event, or simply being with a mama friend on a tough day, Mother Love hopes to connect mothers in as many meaningful ways as possible. Mother Love is a safe space where we meet mothers exactly where they are and offer love and support.

Parenting Montana by Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Podcasts featuring conversations about the challenges and the joys of being in a parenting role in Montana and learn how we can raise our kids to be confident, respectful, and make healthy choices.

The Montana Minute by UM's Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development. Podcasts on issues affecting Montana’s children and families.

Dr. Starbucks Health Tips for Kids by Montana public Radio. A series that teaches children about the human body, common health issues, and simple ways to stay healthy. This program offers a fun way to educate and empower children.

NAMI Montana Podcast. A podcast designed to help people know more about the fight against mental illness in Montana and beyond.

Experiences Build Brain Architecture. Harvard University: Center on the Developing Child 

Downstairs and Upstairs Brain. Dr. Allison Sampson Jackson

Breaking the Cycle of Childhood Trauma in Rural Montana. PBS series

Brains: Journey to Resilience. Alberta Family Wellness

Elevate Montana - Helena Affiliate - Request an in-person training. 

Linking Systems of Care for Children and Youth Project - Free online courses on how to create a trauma-informed system of care for children. 

Montana Office of Public Instruction

  • Teacher Learning Hub- free online courses entitled "Trauma-Informed Practices," "Overcoming ACEs in MT Schools: Childhood Trauma and Its Impact on Learning," and "Resilience: Strategies to Increase Optimism". To access courses, you must register for a free account.

  • Learning Opportunities Portal- free online calendar and portal for ongoing professional development.

  • School Mental Health- Resources for and by local schools, families, and service agencies for school wellness.

UM's Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development

  • Trauma/ACEs- a free eLearning course that overviews trauma, the ACEs study, tips for supporting children, treatment options, and steps for moving towards becoming a trauma-informed agency.

  • Let's Grow Montana- in partnership with  Montana Children's Trust Fund the Center, created an eLearning portal with skills for parents and providers working with children. To access courses, you must register for a free account.

  • The PAX Good Behavior Game- is a classroom-based trauma-informed intervention that teaches children lifelong skills such as self-regulation, impulse control, and fostering relationships. Research has found the program to reduce suicide, teen pregnancy, substance use, and other risk factors into adulthood.

MSU's Center for Health & Safety Culture -  Adverse Childhood Experiences, Social-Emotional Development, and Underage Alcohol and Drug Use: Connecting the Dots video training.

Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine

Brain Architecture Game is a tabletop game experience that builds an understanding of the powerful role of experiences on early brain development– what promotes it, what derails it, with what consequences for society.

PACEs Connection - online resources for resources on positive and adverse childhood experiences. Must create a free log-in to access resources.

Veterans Yoga Project

Fostering resiliency in kids – Mayo Clinic Health System.

Innovative programming in Montana

Thrive is a Gallatin County non-profit supporting families in raising healthy, successful children through mentoring, education, and support. Their signature programs work with children and adults to support their mission of ensuring all children can grow, succeed, and become valuable community members.

Catalyst for Change is an organization committed to developing a Montana-based professional network to educate behavioral health providers and connect providers to rural Montanans.

The Arlee Warriors launched a movement to highlight the strengths and resilience of Indigenous people in Montana. The movement started as a basketball team dedicating their winning season to those impacted by suicide and has grown into a community-wide movement to increase awareness and community building to prevent suicide, bullying, and school-based violence.

Dawson's Promise is a ground-breaking educational program offering a debt-free two-year opportunity for unaccompanied youth and aged-out foster youth. The program includes mentorship, housing assistance, bridge to community support, and helps students create a professional portfolio to help young people to thrive in partnership with Reach Higher Montana.

Connecting Incarcerated Adults and Minors Through Positive Parenting (CAMPP) is an innovative program from Montana State Prison that engages incarcerated fathers and their children to foster and maintain meaningful relationships while the father is incarcerated. 
  • NBC Montana - MT Dept. of Correction works to bring families together.

In crisis and need support, text MT to 741-741. The Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 support for anxiety, stress, depression, school problems, family challenges, dating and relationship problems, and more via text message.

Need help? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Keep Learning

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explores the risks and impacts of trauma on lifetime health and well-being.