Durbin, Capito, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Address Childhood Trauma

RISE from Trauma Act would expand support for children who have experienced trauma, address cycle of violence and addiction

Building off sweeping federal legislation they passed in 2018 to help children exposed to trauma, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and U.S. Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL-07) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) today introduced bipartisan legislation to increase support for children who have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma, such as witnessing violence, parental addiction, or abuse.  The Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act expands upon a GAO report released last month by Durbin and Davis and would help to build the trauma informed workforce and increase resources for communities to support children who have experienced trauma. 

“As we work to address the root causes of violence and addiction in our communities, we need to focus on the impact that exposure to violence and other traumatic experiences have on children,” said Durbin. “In the long run, unaddressed trauma can impact mental and physical health, school success, income, employment, and can contribute to a continued cycle of violence.  Our bill recognizes the ripple effect that trauma can have and seeks to provide our children with the support to address their emotional scars and thrive in the future.”

“I’m happy to once again work with Senator Durbin to address the impact of trauma on children.  The RISE from Trauma Act builds on the work we did last year as part of the SUPPORT Act and addresses many of the additional needs I have heard from across West Virginia,” said Capito “By expanding our trauma-informed workforce and increasing resources for our communities, we are helping them provide assistance and hope to our most vulnerable and working to ensure our next generation can pursue a strong and healthy future.”

“Far too many people across our country have been forced to deal with the harmful impact of violence and addiction in their communities and many have lost family members, friends and neighbors to senseless violence and to addiction themselves.  We need to do everything we can to ensure those who grieve or have endured trauma are able to receive the care and support they need, especially children who have been affected at such a formative age,” said Duckworth.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill to provide more resources for communities where they are needed most.”

“Decades of research have established a link between a child’s exposure to trauma and its effect on neurological and behavioral development.  When children experience traumatic events, such as witnessing domestic violence or a parental drug overdose, the impacts can be significant and long-lasting.  But the impacts of such trauma can be reduced and even prevented by providing parents, schools, healthcare organizations, social service providers, and others with the training and tools they need to provide safe, stable, nurturing environments for children,” said Murkowski.  “I’m proud to help lead legislation that will help expand the trauma-informed workforce and increase resources for communities in need.  While our goal should be that no child is exposed to trauma, we know the reality is a different story.  Children don’t get to choose the environments they grow up in—we owe it to them to ensure they have the support and resources they need to live happy, healthy lives.”

“A recent Government Accountability Office requested by Senator Durbin and myself details the profound, lasting impact of the trauma inflicted on our children by the pervasive climate of violence in our society and reaffirms that the impact of this violence goes further and deeper and persists even more malignantly than has been generally acknowledged,” said Davis.  “This bill expands the focus on trauma into communities and helps service providers adopt a trauma perspective who might not otherwise adopt one – such as criminal justice, juvenile justice, fatherhood programs and serves as both a next step in addressing that trauma and, we hope, a catalyst for an ongoing reorientation of how we as a nation, view and address this epidemic.”

“TIC is a transformative way to help millions overcome the long-term effects of trauma,” said Gallagher.  “Traumatic experiences and toxic stress have far-reaching effects throughout our schools, workforce, and veterans’ community, and this bill ensures that we have the resources necessary to strengthen our trauma-informed workforce and address the unique challenges victims of trauma face.  Wisconsin has been a leader in advancing TIC, and I’m proud to continue to build off this momentum at the federal level.”

Trevor Storrs, the President & CEO of the Alaska Children’s Trust said, “Although Alaska’s most valuable resource is our children, we have one of the highest rates, per capita, of child abuse and neglect.  As the statewide organization focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect, we are excited to see this bipartisan effort to ensure children grow up in safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments.  RISE will help strengthen and expand the current Alaskan efforts to build a trauma-informed state and ensure our children and families have access to the supports and skill development to gain the skills to thrive.”

Nationwide, nearly 35 million children have had at least one traumatic experience, and nearly two-thirds of children have been exposed to violence.  A 2013 study conducted in Chicago communities most impacted by violence found that among 15- to 17-year-olds, one in five witnessed a fatal shooting firsthand.  Far too many kids carry the emotional weight of community violence and other traumatic experiences, such as the daily stress of abuse or neglect at home, a parent battling addiction, or an incarceration or a deportation of a loved one.  Trauma can create stress on the developing brain and force children into constant “survival mode.”  Decades of research have established the link between a child’s exposure to trauma, its effect on neurological and behavioral development, and long-term negative outcomes.  Left unaddressed, childhood trauma can impact mental and physical well-being.  In fact, studies show that individuals who have experienced six or more ACEs have a 20 year shorter average life expectancy, and those who have experienced four or more ACEs are ten times more likely to use illicit narcotics and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide.  Yet only a small fraction of the children in need of support to address trauma receive such care. 

Last year, Durbin, Capito, Murkowski, Davis, and Gallagher helped to pass provisions that created a federal task force across agencies to establish a national strategy and promote trauma best practices across all relevant grant programs; created a new $50M mental health in schools program; increased funding for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) National Child Traumatic Stress Network by $17 million; and expanded the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program to allow clinicians to serve in schools. 

The RISE from Trauma Act would expand and support the trauma-informed workforce in schools, health care settings, social services, first responders, and the justice system, and increase resources for communities like Chicago to address the impact of trauma.  Specifically, the bill:

  • Increases funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) National Health Service Corps loan repayment program, in order to recruit more mental health clinicians;
  • Enhances federal training programs at HHS, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Education to provide more tools for early childhood clinicians, teachers, school leaders, first responders, and certain community leaders;
  • Creates a new HHS grant program to support hospital-based trauma interventions, such as for patients that suffer violent injuries, in order to address mental health needs, prevent re-injury, and improve long-term outcomes;
  • Creates a new HHS grant program to fund community-based coalitions that coordinate stakeholders to address trauma;
  • Creates a new HHS program to monitor and enforce health insurance parity requirements for coverage of infant and early childhood mental health services; and
  • Expands and strengthens the AmeriCorps program and several HRSA health profession training programs to prioritize recruitment and programming in communities that have experienced trauma.