@CCSACanada's Brain Story Initiative

This is a guest post submitted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)

The Brain Story

The Brain Story is an online training certification developed by the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative and supported by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). It focuses on the link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), brain development and health outcomes later in life, including mental health and substance use.

Brain science research has shown what basic physiological processes support the healthy development of infants and young children. Knowledge about how to build healthy brains can be used to develop interventions across many sectors to address the burden of substance use and addiction and other poor health outcomes. Promoting resilience in children and supporting initiatives that prevent, recognize and intervene with ACEs can help offset deleterious effects of trauma and toxic stress early in life.

Impacts on programs and policies

The Brain Story learning has helped increase the link between health-care and justice systems. One such example is Alberta Justice’s Priority Prolific Offender Program which ensures that courts have the most complete information available on offenders committing non-violent crimes. This ensures that appropriate sentences are imposed and that rehabilitation opportunities are made available. Family Justice Services have incorporated the Brain Story into training of criminal justice professionals so that they focus on specific needs of children and families.

Successes from local and international initiatives based on Brain Story learning has led to infusing Brain Science into Policy Development. In 2017, Alberta launched 22 pilot Early Learning and Childcare Centres to support children and families in Alberta ($136 million over three years). From 2013 to 2017, Doctors of BC and the BC government organized and funded the Child and Youth Mental Health Substance Use Collaborative to improve access, integration, and outcomes in child and youth mental health and substance use.  Several states in the U.S. have also incorporated the principles of early childhood brain development to inform investment in quality early care and education.[1]

CCSA’s Brain Story Initiative

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) is promoting the Brain Story resource to build cross-sectoral capacity to address substance use through a trauma- and science-informed public health lens. CCSA will be hosting the Brain Builders Labs, a pair of national events that will bring together champions, innovators and agents of change to develop projects that will help spread and leverage Brain Story knowledge in their communities. The first event will be held in March 2019 and the second after two years of project implementation to assess the impact of those projects.

To indicate your interest in participating in the Brain Builders Lab, or if you have any questions about the Brain Story or the Brain Builders Lab, contact brainstory@ccsa.ca or visit http://www.ccdus.ca/Eng/topics/Children-and-Youth/Brain-Story/Pages/default.aspx

[1] Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. (2017). Using a Brain Science-Infused Lens in Policy Development. Washington, DC: Author. p. 7.