Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM
November 12, 2018

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico’s children experience the fourth-highest rate of trauma in the country, according to a recent study, and that’s the topic of a conference on childhood trauma coming up in Las Cruces on Wednesday.

Many mental health experts think childhood trauma is one of the most urgent public health challenges in the country. Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico, said a recent lawsuit filed against the state’s under-funded Children, Youth and Families Department demonstrates how dire the situation is for many children – and raising awareness is critical.

“When we’re talking about childhood trauma, we want to identify the ways that trauma affects us as individuals, and also as a society, on a daily basis,” Martinez said.

She said hundreds of studies link adverse childhood experiences to a wide array of diseases, mental illnesses and lifelong problems.

The conference, at the Las Cruces Convention Center, will include a number of speakers and learning sessions by local and regional professionals. More information is available at

The conference will focus on adverse childhood experiences — referred to as ACEs — and how to recognize, treat and prevent them. Examples include abuse and neglect, living with someone who has an untreated mental illness, the death of a parent and extreme economic insecurity. Martinez said conference participants will address what the state can do to ensure significant trauma doesn’t lead to poor outcomes in adulthood.

“What is it that our decision-makers and our elected officials need to understand about trauma and ACEs so that they make good decisions for our families?” Martinez said.

The research showed 52 percent of children in New Mexico have experienced at least one major trauma, and 18 percent have lived through three or more adverse childhood experiences – the worst rate in the nation. The national average is 11 percent.

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