Tributes honor the life of Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore

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Image projected on a building of a younger Rep. Cummings taken on a street in his native Baltimore. From an unknown source, projected images and messages appear on the side of a building near my house in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC.

When the news alert came across my cell phone on Thursday morning that Elijah Cummings had died, I felt overwhelming sadness for the loss of a powerful, eloquent, and soulful human who understood trauma in his bones.  An immediate second thought was he died too soon as do many other African Americans whose lifespan is shorter by years than white people’s. Then I wondered how we can honor his legacy by building on what he started dramatically in the House Oversight and Reform Committee with the first hearing of its kind on July 11 this year (Click here for a story on the hearing in ACEs Connection).

Just the day before the news of Cummings’ death, I had read an email from Dan Press who leads the advocacy work for the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) updating me and other members of the CTIPP Board about the latest thinking of Cummings and his staff about the advisability of moving ahead at this time with comprehensive legislation on trauma.  The strategy was fluid but it was clear that Cummings was engaged and focused on the what, when, and how of promising next steps with legislation.

Personal stories from witnesses, U.S. representatives provided an emotional wallop to House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on childhood trauma

William Kellibrew's grandmother receives standing ovation

Room erupts in applause for the grandmother of witness William Kellibrew during July 11 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

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The power of personal stories from witnesses and committee members fueled the July 11 hearing on childhood trauma in the House Oversight and Reform Committee* throughout the nearly four hours of often emotional and searing testimony and member questions and statements (Click here for 3:47 hour video). The hearing was organized into a two panels—testimony from survivors followed by statements from experts—but personal experiences relayed by witnesses (including the experts) and the members of Congress blurred the lines of traditional roles.

Chairman Cummings
Chairman Elijah Cummings
Ranking Committee member Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Ranking member Jim Jordon (OH)

Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) set the tone early in the hearing by recalling his childhood experience of being in special education from kindergarten to sixth grade, and being told he would “never be able to read or write.”  Still, he “ended up a Phi Beta Kappa and a lawyer.”

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Opioid legislation with significant trauma provisions clears the Congress, awaits the President’s signature

Opioid legislation with significant trauma provisions clears the Congress, awaits the President’s signature

 

On October 3, the U.S. Senate voted 98-1 (only Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT voted nay) to approve The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act  (H.R. 6 or previously titled the Opioid Crisis Response Act), a final step before the President’s signature [Editor’s note: The bill was signed by President Trump on October 24].  The House approved the measure on September 28. The Senate approved an earlier version of this legislation on September 17 and, as reported on ACEs Connection, it includes significant provisions taken from or aligned with the goals of the Heitkamp-Durbin Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act (S. 774), including the creation of an interagency task force to identify trauma-informed best practices and grants for trauma-informed practices in schools.

As reported earlier in ACEs Connection, the trauma provisions are the result of “extensive engagement” of the offices of Senators Heitkamp (D-ND) and Durbin (D-IL) staff with Shelley Capito (R-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The opioid legislation represents a rare bipartisan, multiple committee achievement.

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Oprah Winfrey addresses the long-term effects of trauma on CBS’s 60 Minutes

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UPDATE:  Click here to view the segment (approximately 14 minutes) and the 60 Minutes Overtime interview with Oprah (about 5 minutes).
Oprah Winfrey addresses the long-term effects of childhood trauma this Sunday, March 11 on 60 Minutes (tune in on CBS at 7:00 p.m. ET). The word is spreading quickly about the potential impact of this 60 Minutes segment. One ACEs Connection member said “The cause now has an iconic “champion of champions.” This could be a significant game changer.” Another said we should all be prepared to respond afterwards with opeds and letters to the editors to local papers, meetings with legislators etc.

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Implementation of new Vermont law begins with the appointment of legislators to bicameral, bipartisan ACEs Working Group

After the 2014 Vermont legislative session, Rep. George Till was picking himself up, dusting himself off and reflecting on what he called an “ALE…..or Adverse Legislative Experience” when his ambitious legislative vision fizzled into a tiny bubble of hope to create a trauma-informed state. That bubble was enough to inspire  ACEs-related legislation — No. 43, H. 508, signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott on May 22 — and policymakers are scheduled to start implementing the law next month. While the law calls for incremental steps, the long-term impact could be substantial.

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Trauma and ACEs missing in response to opioid crisis, says national organization

 

A policy brief issued in July by the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) forcefully develops the case for trauma-informed approaches to address the opioid crisis—to prevent and treat addiction—based on strong evidence that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at the root of the crisis. CTIPP is a national organization that advocates for trauma-informed prevention and treatment programs at the federal, state and local levels.

Successful strategies to attack the opioid epidemic must recognize the powerful correlation between ACEs and substance abuse demonstrated by the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), according to CTIPP. While recognizing the complexity of addiction pathways and contributing factors such as job loss, CTIPP argues that understanding the role of ACEs and trauma in addiction is essential in developing effective strategies to prevent addiction and treat those already addicted.

The brief, “Trauma-Informed Approaches Need to be Part of a Comprehensive Strategy for Addressing the Opioid Epidemic“, describes the evidence showing a correlation between traumatic experiences, including the ACE Study and more recent studies that, for example, “demonstrate a clear dose response relationship between the number of trauma experiences and increased risk of prescription drug misuse in adults.”

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Perspectives on building healthy communities

National Policy Implications Panel

 (l to r) Dr. Garth Graham, president, Aetna Foundation; Wendy Ellis, project director, Building Community Resilience Collaborative, GWU; Stuart M. Butler, The Brookings Institution

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After decades of working at the national level on health and mental policy in Washington, DC, I find myself looking for ways to get involved locally—the closer to home the better, and the more tangible the work, the more gratifying. There has never been a better time to act locally, not just because of the polarized national scene, but because opportunities abound to really make a difference at the local level.

With this budding interest local involvement taking shape, I was eager see what lessons I could learn from a May 9th event titled “New directions for communities: How they can boost neighborhood health,” sponsored by the venerable organization The Brookings Institution, best known for leadership at the national and global levels.

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States produce a bumper crop of ACEs bills in 2017—nearly 40 bills in 18 states

NCSLA scan done in March by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), through StateNet, of bills introduced in 2017 that specifically include adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the text produced a surprising number of bills — close to 40 — in a 18 states. A scan done a year ago produced less than a handful. NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves state legislators and their staffs.

The shear volume of bills in so many states represents a promising trend—a growing interest by state policymakers in ACEs science. Most of the bills are still pending in state legislatures. A Utah resolution to promote ACEs science in state policy was signed by the state’s governor and a Virginia resolution that mentions ACEs in trauma-informed community networks was passed by the legislature. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill to include ACEs science in that state’s Medicaid Family Home Visiting program.

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Comprehensive legislation introduced in U.S. Senate and House to address trauma

Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. Durbin, Christinia Bethel & Joe Barnhart (Left to right)

Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) at the Dec. 1, 2016 congressional briefing on addressing childhood trauma

The “Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act” (S. 774H.R. 1757) was introduced on March 29 in the Senate by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) with co-sponsors Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and, 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. The bill’s sponsors were not successful in their efforts to gain bipartisan support in advance of its introduction.

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs resolution to encourage state policies and programs based on ACEs science

Utah Governor Gary Herbert

Utah Governor Gary Herbert speaks to press at the monthly conference in March

Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law on March 22 a resolution (H.C.R. 10) to encourage state policy and programs to incorporate the science of adverse childhood experiences to address “severe emotional trauma and other adverse childhood experiences” in children and adults and implement evidence-based interventions to increase resiliency. The resolution was approved unanimously on March 7 by the Republican-dominated legislature.

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