ST. CLOUD, Minn. — In an effort to improve community health and reduce crime, Stearns County law enforcement is working with community partners to reduce the effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) happen to people before age 19 and can include issues like substance abuse, divorce, neglect or physical abuse. Some are about the behaviors of other people in the household.

These experiences have lasting effects, some well into adulthood, ranging from health and social problems to early death. The risk for negative consequences increase with the number of ACEs a person had.

"This is why it isn't just that simple," Janelle Kendall, Stearns County Attorney, said to St. Cloud Times.

Kendall presented with Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud and CentraCare doctors at a St. Cloud Rotary meeting illustrating the effects of ACEs.

In Stearns County, CentraCare has partnered with law enforcement, including the St. Cloud Police Department, Stearns County Sheriff's Office, the Waite Park Police Department and county services such as child protection and the attorney's office, according to the presentation.

"Whether you're social work, probation, law enforcement. We found ourselves working with the same people with some frequency," Bentrud said. The multi-disciplinary team is "meeting the needs of individuals wherever they are at."

When Waite Park compared its community contacts with St. Cloud, according to Bentrud, it found individuals who were having contact — between both departments — 10-15 times in a 90-day period.

"If we pay attention to those things and make some referrals, we can try to mitigate the trauma," Bentrud said. "I kind of view it as a crime prevention program, in a sense."

In the St. Cloud area, law enforcement is confronted with issues related to mental illness, homelessness, human trafficking and addiction, Bentrud said, and unresolved trauma is a big issue.

Officers in Waite Park were trained on ACEs about a little over a year ago, according to Bentrud. Officers are taught to recognize traumatic experiencesto make referrals for services, particularly with younger people.

Bentrud said the department wants to expand its capabilities but, for now, they are able to reach out to school resource officers and the Child Response Initiative program when young people are involved in traumatic or violent experiences — connecting them to individual services.

Services, including those for adults, range from individual counseling, Veterans Affairs services for those eligible and sometimes medication management.

CentraCare was also involved in a Twin Cities public television documentary on the subject, which airs once a week from Jan. 13 to Feb. 10.

"We can pay now, or we can pay later on," Kendall said. "We know that what goes on with children as their brains are being formed affects their health later on...(and) it affects their behavior later on."

An AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Cloud Times.