President Trump recently signed into law a major bipartisan legislative package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. The bill, named the SUPPORT for Patients and Families Act, includes key trauma-informed provisions that the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and its members actively worked to promote.

“The passage of SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) is a great example of the incredible influence the Alliance strategic action network can have when we are focused together on doing what is in the best interest of children, adults, families, and communities,” commented Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of The Alliance. “We are especially grateful to our North Carolina member Family Services and its president and CEO Bob Feikema for his efforts to raise awareness about this issue among North Carolina legislators.” 

“The Alliance provided us with the legislative details and the rationale for the trauma-informed provisions. When we contacted Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), our congresswoman, we brought the argument home by emphasizing how staff in our Head Start program witness and respond to the impact of traumatic experiences on children in our classrooms on a daily basis,” Feikema recalled.

“The Alliance’s Change in Mind Institute believes that these trauma-informed care and prevention provisions will improve the lives of children impacted by the opioid epidemic and will lead to better health and educational outcomes, including reducing and preventing future substance misuse, and thereby lowering the overall costs to government,” noted Jennifer Jones, director of the Change in Mind Institute.

Research has shown that children whose parents and/or caregivers have an opioid use disorder or substance use disorder experience adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) because of their caregivers’ addiction, further compounding both the cost in lives traumatized and the loss of human potential. The trauma-informed care provisions included in the law apply the three levels of prevention, common to a public health approach, to prevent and mitigate ACEs. Importantly, these provisions work to ensure that prevention services are delivered in settings where the effects of ACES are visible, such as day care institutions and schools, which have historically lacked the essential resources to offer prevention and early intervention services for children and families at greatest risk for trauma.

As a member of the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policies and Practices, the Alliance met with several members of Congress and their staff to support the inclusion of the trauma-informed provisions in the House version of the bill, which originally did not include them. Active support for the campaign was provided by Jennifer Jones, director of the Alliance’s Change In Mind Institute and Teri Covington, director of Within Our Reach, an office housed at the Alliance to promote policy and practice changes around child abuse and neglect issues.

The Alliance worked closely with members on the effort, engaging its strategic action network of community-based members to speak out on this issue. We created a number of tools to help our members educate Congressional leaders and staffers about the root causes of addiction and how to align public policy and federal resources with an approach that includes a framework of prevention and trauma-informed care that treats the whole family. 

The Alliance’s former vice president for public policy and mobilization Marlo Nash was also a vocal proponent for the provisions. Last June, she moderated a briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on addressing the impacts of the opioid crisis on children. She also authored the op-ed Opioid Treatment Plans must include a Trauma-Informed Approach which was published in The Hill

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