Health policymakers and practitioners are increasingly focusing on the harmful effects of trauma on health status for both children and adults. Trauma-informed care acknowledges the role that trauma has played in patients’ lives, shifting the question from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” This approach recognizes that much of the behavior demonstrated by individuals with a history of trauma developed as coping mechanisms and suggests that appropriate treatment can retrain the brain to respond to situations in a healthier way.

This brief provides an introduction to trauma-informed care and describes how this approach can be adopted to better serve Medicaid populations, including examples from three innovative programs across the country. It also outlines the health impacts of trauma, including a portrait of a trauma survivor, and details the emerging evidence base for treating trauma. The brief draws from the experiences of organizations in the Center for Health Care Strategies’ Complex Care Innovation Lab, made possible by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit to uncover new ways to improve care for individuals with complex medical and social needs.