NORTH MANKATO — A Thursday workshop focused on the impact adverse childhood experiences can have on health outcomes later in life.

Also known as ACEs, adverse childhood experiences include sexual abuse, neglect, substance abuse by a family member and a wide range of other traumatic experiences. As highlighted Thursday, the more ACEs in a child’s life, the greater the risk of negative health outcomes.

The workshop was organized to educate regional child development advocates on ACEs and what they can do to help clients impacted by them.

The Greater Mankato Area United Way, The Reach Drop-in Center and Minnesota State University’s Department of Social Work organized the day-long event at South Central College. Elizabeth Harstad, United Way’s director of community impact, said the trio wanted to be proactive in raising awareness of the issue among stakeholders in the region. With more than 100 people registered, she took the attendance as a good sign.

“Taking a full day to come to this workshop means that people want to learn about it,” she said.

The workshop included a Q and A with mental health professionals, a film screening, sessions on neurobiology and other research gathered about ACEs through the years. Among those in attendance were school district staff, county workers, child care providers, university department heads and others involved in childhood mental health.

Debra Gohagan, child welfare program director at MSU, said education on ACEs is just the first step. The second is to stay connected with attendees, and potentially provide further ACEs training.

“Hopefully we’re able to plant a seed of an idea that can transform the way in which we understand what happens to our children and the impact it can have on them in adulthood,” she said.

Tasha Moulton, youth outreach worker at The Reach Drop-in Center, said the youth homeless shelter works with clients who’ve been through multiple ACEs in their upbringing. She estimated about 90 percent of clients who take an ACEs survey have had five or more of the experiences.

“We have an understanding that everyone walking through the door has experienced trauma,” she said. “As your ACE score goes up, so do some of those chronic health conditions.”

Depression, anxiety and chronic drinking were among the conditions associated with ACEs, according to research provided at the workshop. Ideally, Moulton said, the attendees can take what they learned and help serve clients who've experienced ACEs better in the future.

“It’s kind of a call to action, now that you have this information, what are you going to do?” she said.