Bipartisan, bicameral trauma legislation provides support for community initiatives and workforce development

 

In the current polarized political environment, it is no small feat for a bill to be introduced with bipartisan support in both chambers—a fact that bodes well for the future of the “Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act of 2019.”

Identical bills titled “The RISE from Trauma Act of 2019” were introduced in the Senate and the House on June 10, with bipartisan support from members of Congress representing diverse states, districts, and constituencies. While sponsors in the Senate and House both come from Illinois and both are Democrats—U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. Danny Davis—cosponsors of the Senate bill (S. 1770) include Senators Shelley Capito (R-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with the junior senator from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth.  The cosponsor of the House companion, H. B. 3180, Mike Gallagher (R-WI) represents a district that includes Green Bay, Wisconsin and smaller surrounding communities. 

The “RISE from Trauma Act” is far less comprehensive than the Heitkamp-Durbin bill that was introduced in the last Congress without Republican support (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a one-term Democrat from North Dakota, was defeated in her re-election bid in 2018. She became a passionate advocate for trauma-informed policy as her understanding deepened of the impact of historical trauma experienced by Native Americans in North Dakota.) Significantly, provisions from the Heitkamp-Durbin bill were incorporated into the opioid legislation that passed last fall and was signed by President Trump on October 24.   

Senate and House sponsors took a gradual path from awareness to concrete action

The bipartisan collaboration on the trauma provisions in the opioid legislation carried forward in the development of the RISE bill. RISE cosponsors Senators Capito and Murkowski were key participants in getting the trauma provisions included in the opioid law. Sen. Capito’s interest in trauma is related to West Virginia’s opioid epidemic. In a press release from Senator Durbin’s office, she notes that the crisis has created daily trauma and ripple effects on multiple generations of families. Durbin’s leadership on trauma is founded in his search for solutions to gun violence in Chicago and similar cities around the country.

Murkowski’s state of Alaska has been hard hit by the opioid crisis and is home to Native American tribes that have experienced historical trauma. In the press release issued when the bill was introduced, she said “when children experience traumatic events, such as witnessing domestic violence or a parental drug overdose, the impacts can be significant and long-lasting.”

The sole RISE House cosponsor, Mike Gallagher, joined Rep. Davis in supporting last year’s H. Res. 443, a resolution recognizing the importance and effectiveness of trauma-informed care and calling for a national trauma awareness month and trauma-informed awareness day. A similar resolution, S. Res. 346, sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) passed in the spring of last year. Rep. Gallagher’s co-sponsorship of the RISE bill is a reflection of his growing commitment to address trauma in federal policy that was first expressed in his sponsorship of the trauma resolution.

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Key provisions of the RISE from Trauma Act

Dan Press, legal advisor to the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP), says that among CTIPP priorities in the bill are the provisions to support local coordinating and action bodies to address community trauma (Section 101) and the Performance Partnership Pilot that would test programs to braid funding to increase trauma-informed services for high-risk populations (Section 102). 

The bill authorizes $50 million over four years (2020-23) in grants not to exceed $4 million to “state, county, local, or Indian tribe or tribal organizations…or nonprofit private entities for demonstration projects to enable such entitles to act as coordinating bodies to address community trauma.” Even if this provision is enacted, there is the additional hurdle of funds being included in the separate appropriations bill with stiff competition with other budget priorities across Health and Human Services (HHS) and other departments. The legislation details a requirement that grantees must include a wide range of representatives from multiple sectors, including government, higher education, criminal justice, and more, and representatives of the general public including “individuals with lived experience.” Funding priority is given to communities that “have faced high rates of community trauma…”  The funds could be used to convene stakeholders, collect data, build awareness, skills and leadership, and develop a strategic plan.

The Performance Partnership Pilot builds on the existing program focused on “disconnected youth ages 14-24” to support younger children and families that have experienced trauma. It allows federal funds from multiple agencies to be pooled to create more flexibility for local, state, and tribal entities to support trauma-informed services for high-risk populations who often receive services from multiple programs. 

Workforce enhancement to increase the number of trained practitioners to provide trauma-informed mental health services to young children is cited by Zero to Three as that organization’s priority.  In an action alert to advocates, Zero to Three focused on the bill’s provisions to expand access to infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH) training and workforce support and establish a IECMH Leadership Program to award grants to establish training institutes and centers of excellence for IECMH.

Click here for a 3-page section-by-section summary of major provisions (also attached) or read the entire 37-page text of S. 1770 and H.R. 3180.

Organizational Support

In addition to CTIPP and Zero to Three, more than 30 other organizations support the bills, including the National Head Start Association; National Children's Alliance; National Education Association; Illinois Education Association; American Federation of Teachers; American Psychological Association; American Psychiatric Association; Futures Without Violence; Mental Health America; Families USA; Alliance for Strong Families and Communities; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; Trust for America’s Health; Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL); Building Community Resilience Collaborative; and Alaskan Children’s Trust. Click here for the list of endorsing organizations.

Trauma advocates promote co-sponsorship of the RISE from Trauma Act

Trauma advocates are focused on gaining co-sponsors (both Democrat and Republican) for the RISE from Trauma Act. This “ask” can be made of those representatives and senators who are having town hall meetings or office hours during the upcoming August break. The July 4 break in the House and Senate just started—the House will return July 8 and the Senate July 7. There is a longer break in August:  The Senate is in session through August 2 and returns September 9; the House is in session through July 26 and returns September 9. 

Organizations are asking their membership to urge their congressional representatives—both House and Senate—to co-sponsor the legislation. In addition, the message to those who live in states where there is a member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, is to urge those senators to co-sponsor and to ask the HELP chair, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to hold a hearing on the bill. 

If there is an established trauma-informed coalition or one that is growing locally or statewide, it is important to share the work of this effort with your representatives. Click here for a new toolkit on organizing your advocacy efforts from Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC).

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