U.S. Senator Durbin (in dark jacket) amused by comment by Colleen Cicchetti at lectern
Sometime during the next several days, the “Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act” is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) with co-sponsors Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN). It will also be introduced for the first time in the House of Representatives by Chicago Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL7). A version of the bill was introduced in the Senate in the final days of the last Congress. Efforts are underway now to gain additional co-sponsors and organizational support, and refine the language of the bill.
The legislation creates a high-level multi-agency task force led by the assistant secretary for mental health (created in the mental health provisions of the 21st Century CURES Act) to recommend a set of best practices to promote “safe, nurturing environments for children and families that have experienced trauma.”
Other provisions—summarized in the attached fact sheet provided by the bill sponsors—include:
—Disseminate Best Practices. Provides more teachers, doctors, social service providers, and first responders with the tools and understanding to help children who have experienced trauma by allowing funding for several federal grant programs to be used for this training;
—Expand Treatment Capacity. Expands Medicaid coverage for child trauma services, increases mental health care in schools, and enlists trained mentors and community leaders to help;
—Support the Workforce. Expands loan repayment and graduate school behavioral health training programs, and enhances teacher training programs;
—Foster Community Coordination. Creates a grant program to bring together stakeholders to identify needs, collect data, and target efforts. Also allows communities to pool federal grants from multiple agencies and focus the funding on increasing trauma services for children.
In contrast to the quiet introduction of the earlier version of the legislation (S. 3519) in the 114th Congress, a press conference was held on March 19 at the University of Chicago Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine (DCAM) to announce plans for the bill’s upcoming introduction. Sen. Durbin and Rep. Davis were featured at the event, along with the other participants including Colleen Cicchetti, PhD, executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at the Children’s Hospital of Chicago and several other medical professionals and advocates. The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, and the Chicago Defender covered the event.
Rep. Davis, who lost a grandson last year to gun violence, was quoted in an editorial team piece in the Chicago Defender: “A new study from the Heartland Alliance has documented the deep nexus between violence, trauma and poverty. The study reinforces the urgency of treating trauma and how untreated trauma is not only destructive to the individual child but leads to more violence and poverty. We are desperately short of resources to address childhood trauma, to help heal children suffering from trauma and to begin to break the cycle leading to mass childhood trauma. This bill will begin to marshal effective evidence-based treatments and interventions for our youth.”
In addition to the Chicago event, there will be a media roll-out in North Dakota, Sen. Heitkamp’s home state.
A series of three briefings, sponsored by Sen. Heitkamp and organized by the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), were held during 2016 to educate policymakers and their staff about ACEs and trauma, and how this knowledge is being used to improve services and programs at the state and local levels. Cicchetti also presented at the third and final briefing. CTIPP—a newly established organization to address trauma across the lifespan—has been actively involved in the development of the legislation, providing research, suggested approaches, and refinements to the bill.
The legislation has been endorsed by dozens of national and Chicago-area organizations. If your organization is interested in supporting the bill, contact Max Kanner at email@example.com. The bill summary and a section-by-section summary of the bill are attached.