California Launching ACEs and Toxic Stress Healing-Centered Campaign

SACRAMENTO – The Office of the California Surgeon General (CA-OSG) is developing a healing-centered campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the negative health impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and providing support and healing strategies for individuals and communities across the state. The $24 million campaign will launch later this year and is being done in partnership with Civilian, a San-Diego-based social change and marketing agency.

“The increase in youth mental health issues is critical as we work to address the needs of all Californians,” said California Surgeon General, Dr. Diana Ramos. “As I travel across the state and meet with Californians, I continually hear about the real-life experiences that reinforce the need for access to mental health services. Today’s announcement is part of our state’s larger effort to ensure we are expanding access and making resources more affordable for all Californians.”

“Equity is a key component of this campaign and at the core of all of the CYBHI’s work,” said Melissa Stafford Jones, Director of California’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative. “To achieve the vision of the CYBHI, we must center and advance equity for children, youth and families, particularly those who face the greatest systemic barriers to wellness and are disproportionately impacted by behavioral health issues.”

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: ACEs are highly stressful and potentially traumatic experiences that can happen to any of us before we turn 18 years of age, including growing up with a parent struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, witnessing domestic violence or experiencing abuse or neglect. Research tells us that 2 in 3 adults across the United States have been exposed to one or more ACEs.

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention shared some of the indirect impacts of the pandemic on children – two of those being increases in ACEs and worsening mental health. A more recent report from February of 2023 found that 42 percent of students felt so sad or hopeless in the past two weeks that they could not go about their usual activities. These feelings of hopelessness were even more heightened among young women and LGBTQ youth.

While ACEs affect people of all racial, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds, some people are disproportionately impacted. That’s why, as part of the state’s ongoing commitment to equity and accessibility, our campaign will focus on reaching:

  • Economically disadvantaged communities
  • LGBTQ+ communities
  • Communities of color, immigrants, and refugees
  • Rural communities
  • Juvenile justice-involved youth
  • Child welfare-involved youth
  • Transition-age youth

BACKGROUND: Funding for this campaign is made possible through California’s Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI)—a five-year, $4.7 billion initiative that is transforming the way California supports children, youth and families. The CYBHI serves as the core of California’s Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health, a historic investment that unites the efforts of health programs, education and social services with the goal of increasing access to mental health and substance use supports for all children and youth.

The ACEs and toxic stress healing-centered campaign is one of two efforts within the CYBHI managed by the Surgeon General’s office. To learn more about these and other efforts to enhance mental health for all Californians, visit: