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Aetna Better Health launches Trauma Informed Care Center of Excellence

February 08, 2021 | Health Insurance

A young man having a video call on a laptop waving at the person he is conversing with.

PHOENIX (Feb. 8, 2021) — Aetna Better Health, the Medicaid managed care business of Aetna, a CVS Health company, today announced the launch of the Trauma Informed Care Center of Excellence (Center). Aetna will stand up Centers in California and Oklahoma to address secondary trauma – the emotional duress that results when an individual is exposed to the firsthand trauma experience of another – in the workforce. Aetna plans to extend the model to Ohio and Nevada in the coming months.

Aetna Better Health has long been a leader in Trauma Informed Care by bringing together professionals and experts across the nation who understand the public health emergency that is the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on a person’s lifelong health. Through the Center, Aetna will shift its trauma informed focus to include adults that may be at high risk for secondary trauma due to workplace exposure. Through this expansion, Aetna will promote organizational culture change by coaching community partners to address secondary trauma in the workforce and take care of those who take care of others.

Studies show that between 6 and 26 percent of therapists working with traumatized populations are at risk of secondary trauma,” said Kelly Munson, President, Aetna Medicaid. “As a managed care organization, we are in a unique position to bring the science of trauma, as well as the science of hope, to bear on behalf of our members, our communities, our own staff and community workforce.”

The Center will offer resources to communities including a learning collaborative, a manual to help organizations implement trauma informed care practices in their workplace and a lifeline to experts in the field for ongoing and sustained growth.

During the first phase of the project, Aetna will sponsor a year-long investigation designed, conducted and evaluated by the University of Oklahoma’s Hope Research Center in partnership with Sunbeam Family Services in Oklahoma City. Hope Research Center’s Executive Director, Chan Hellman, PhD, will lead the project and train Sunbeam staff on the science of hope, which can mitigate the effects of secondary traumatic stress.

“A workforce that may be experiencing secondary trauma can have several negative outcomes including higher rates of burnout, higher rates of turnover and lower wellbeing scores. What our research shows, is that nurturing hope among staff can buffer these negative effects of secondary traumatic stress among staff,” said Dr. Hellman. “By bringing together Sunbeam and the Center, and through the science of hope training, we will be able to measure the impact of learnings and strategic initiatives an organization takes as they strive to take their Trauma Informed Care approach to the next level.”

Aetna will conduct similar studies with The Hope Research Center and community organizations in California and Ohio. A study with Hillsides, a full service behavioral health organization that has served California residents for 108 years, is set to begin later this year and work is underway to identify a partner in Ohio.

“Ohio has made significant investments in Trauma Informed Care and has established six regional coalitions, bringing Trauma Informed Care principles and training to providers and community organizations,” said Munson. “Our efforts can complement these foundations and build upon the work that is already underway.”

Through the Center, Aetna will capture outcomes from the project and build on validated proof points for other organizations and systems to promote workforce wellness.

“We know that organizations working with youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems may have a workforce experiencing secondary trauma,” Munson said. “Conversely, a workforce that has higher hope is more likely to experience better job satisfaction and wellness. And, workers who have high hope generally come to their jobs each day with renewed energy and focus for the benefit of their children and families. These are the hypotheses we will test and report on in the future.”

About Aetna Medicaid
Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health business, has over 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.6 million people in 15 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Texas. For more information, see