Addiction & Overdose

Bloomberg Fellow Joanna Mlicka-Anderko Helped Launch a Program for Schoolchildren Exposed to Trauma in Newark, NJ; the Program is Now Statewide

December 1, 2020

Marianne Amoss

More than 60% of children who participated in the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence were directly exposed to violence, crime, or abuse at least one time in the previous year. Exposure to trauma can impact a child’s ability to learn, to follow behavioral norms in school, and to relate well to others; prolonged exposure to trauma can ultimately lead to higher rates of school absence poverty, teen pregnancy, and joblessness.

A program called Handle with Care seeks to support schoolchildren exposed to traumatic events, also known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The program connects law enforcement with schools; police officers identify a child at the scene of a traumatic event, and then confidentially alert the child’s school about the exposure (no details are shared other than the student’s name). Teachers and school administrators can then implement appropriate trauma-informed resources to support that child.  

The Handle with Care program originated in West Virginia and has since been implemented in other localities including Maryland, Ohio, and New Jersey. In 2016, in her previous role with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, Bloomberg Fellow Joanna Mlicka-Anderko was part of the group that led the effort to launch the program in Newark, New Jersey, under the name Newark Cares. On October 6, 2020, the program was mandated by the New Jersey Attorney General to take effect statewide as of December 31, 2020.

Joanna is an MPH fellow in the addiction and overdose focus area; her research focuses on exploring the links among trauma, addiction, and health and finding ways for law enforcement to address ACEs. She is also addressing these issues in her new role as Senior Prevention Program Manager with the Community Outreach and Prevention Support program, which is out of the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs within the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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