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Building the Movement Session 9: Trauma-Informed Policy & Advocacy

Summary produced by: Leslie Alvarez | Alyssa Besser | Sofia Escalante | Sarah Levine | Thalia Philip (MPH Candidates, Mailman School of Public Health)

Speakers, Organizations, and Contact Information

  • Dr. Diana (Denni) Fishbein | Director of Neuro Prevention Research, University of North Carolina - Frankfurt Graham Child Development Institute, and Co-Director & President, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

  • Jesse Kohler | Executive Director, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice

  • Jen Curt | Director of Government Affairs, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice

  • Dr. John Roman | Senior Fellow, NORC at University of Chicago, and Co-Director, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

  • Whitney Marris |

  • Manya Chylinski | Communications Specialist, Entrepreneur, and Survivor of Boston Marathon Bombing

  • Maggie Wooden | Legislative Director, Representative Peter Mayer

  • Dan Press | Co-Founder & General Counsel, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice

  • Andrew Hevesi | Assembly Member, New York State

  • Zeke Cohen | Councilman, Baltimore City, and Leading Actor, Healing City Act

  • Dr. Philip J. Leaf, PhD | Building a National Movement and Local Movements to Prevent Trauma and Foster Resilience, Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with joint appointments in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Education, and Arts and Sciences, and Secretary, We Our Us Movement

Workshop Agenda

  • 00:04:32 | Dr. Diana Fishbein & Jesse Kohler | Opening

  • 00:11:21 | Jen Curt | Congress 101 Presentation

  • 00:50:00 | Dr. John Roman | Science-Based Advocacy

  • 01:04:32 | Whitney Marris | Advocacy through Storytelling

  • 01:31:58 | Manya Chylinski | Boston Marathon Survivor

  • 01:46:17 | Maggie Wooden | Post Disaster Mental Health Response Act

  • 01:51:42 | Dr. Diana Fishbein & Jesse Kohler | BRAIN BREAK

  • 02:02:26 | Dan Press | Importance of Oversight Hearing on Childhood Trauma

  • 02:06:38 | Elijah Cummings | Opening Remarks from Hearing

  • 02:16:28 | Bipartisan Caucus | Trauma-Informed Care

  • 02:29:41 | Andrew Hevesi | Remarks

  • 02:35:53 | Zeke Cohen | Baltimore City Council and Healing City Act

  • 03:03:01 | Dr. Philip J. Leaf | Professor Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with Joint Appointments in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Education, and Arts and Sciences, and Secretary of We Our Us Movement

  • 03:26:29 | Dan Press & Dr. Diana Fishbein | Opioid Legislation

  • 03:48:06 | Dan Press, Dr. Diana Fishbein, & Jesse Kohler | Advocate of the Year Award and Closing Remarks

Workshop Overview

Overall, the workshop highlights the importance of trauma-informed approaches to policy and the need for comprehensive, unified federal action. It covers various aspects of the Federal Congress, including the legislative process, structure, and political motivations. It also discusses the process of making program and language requests to Congress. Furthermore, the workshop highlights the need for a comprehensive federal approach to mitigating childhood trauma, recognizing its severe impact and prioritizing prevention and treatment. The efforts of dedicated professionals to address childhood trauma are acknowledged, yet efforts at the federal level remain severely underfunded. All people should develop relationships with their local and federal governments to promote trauma-informed policy at every level.

Quality connected relationships, positive examples, and credible messengers are crucial to inspire young people and adults to take action. The session highlighted the Healing City Summit, where young people created a bill that was signed into law, as well as efforts to address trauma in Baltimore through legislative approaches, partnerships, and community-based initiatives are discussed. The workshop concludes with a discussion of the need for systems change to address the opioid epidemic and the impact of intergenerational trauma to fund evidence-based programs that can identify and intervene among at-risk youth.

Why is this Workshop Important?

The workshop specifically addresses the need for federal leadership, funding, and efforts to address trauma through legislative approaches, partnerships, and community-based initiatives. It also emphasizes the importance of positive examples, trustworthy messengers, quality relationships in inspiring action, and the need for system change to address related issues. Overall, the workshop offers useful insights into trauma-informed advocacy, the legislative process, and the roles of government and individuals in advancing public health and well-being, which are imperative to create a unified and evidence-based front.


01:33:45 - 01:33:51 | Manya Chylinski | “I walked away that afternoon without any physical injuries and I thought that meant I was okay and it turns out I wasn't. I really struggled.”

02:07:57 - 02:08:10 | Elijah Cummings | “Throughout the nation, childhood trauma is a pervasive public health issue with long-term negative health effects that cost the United States billions of dollars.”

02:09:06 - 02:09:25 | Elijah Cummings | “The science is powerful. Traumatic experiences can enter the developing brains of children and create lifelong impairments to their ability to manage stress and regulate emotions and significantly increase the likelihood of negative health outcomes.”

02:33:48 - 02:33:55 | Andrew Hevesi | “I have never seen a policy that has more upside to potentially do a positive benefit for society if we focus on it and do it right than childhood trauma.”

02:41:00 - 02:41:12 | Damani, Jayana, and Brianna (Youth Voices City Counsel Hearing) | “You all are spending too much time focused on how to police us when what you need to be doing is focus on how to prevent violence from occurring in the first place.”


5:20: Dr. Diana (Denni) Fishbein, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives

What we’re going to do today is talk about advocacy, how we put into place all that we've learned, all we've been activated to do during this workshop series to really be able to embed that knowledge in our sectors, and our communities and change policy that supports the systems change that results from our work.

11:24: Jen Curt, Director of Government Affairs, CTIPP

11:48: As Jesse mentioned, I'm the Director of Government Affairs CTIPP. We do primarily federal advocacy, so I know that you're all gaining your tools to be advocates and maybe you'll do that at the municipal level or the state level and we invite you to do that on the federal level. And so today, I’ll be doing a presentation on Congress on the federal level.

13:38: So we'll start with your basic overview of the Legislative Branch. You have a House of Representatives and you have the Senate. In the House, there are 435 seats - one member per Congressional district. Congressional districts are divided based on population - there is an equal population across every Congressional district.

14:02: Members of the House have to be reelected every two years, which has an impact on their work because they're regularly campaigning, they're regularly working towards being reelected.

14:17: In the House, the leadership who drive the agenda includes the Speaker of House, who is Speaker Pelosi currently, was elected. And then you have minority and the majority leader. The Minority Leader is from the minority party, currently Congressman McCarthy, and Majority Leader is Congressman Hoyer. Only the House of Representatives can originate spending legislation

14:47: In the Senate, you have two Senators per state, regardless of population. They serve six terms overlapping, so that gives a little bit more space between election cycles when they’re up for reelection and heavy campaign season. And they don't have speakers. It's a majority and the minority leader.

15:17: But only the Senate can confirm presidential nominations and approve treaties.

15:23: And when I say the word “members” and talk about members of Congress, that's across both branches.

15:32: And if there’s a 50-50 tie in the Senate, so there's 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, the Vice President will break the tie, which why there is currently a Democrat majority in the Senate because even though there are 50 Democrat senators and 50 Republicans, the Vice President is Democrat.

15:50: It's very important when we're talking about any of this, in my opinion, to start with a conversation about politics. There are two major parties - Democrats and Republicans. And while there are two major parties, each party is not a monolith. So different members of each Chamber, even though they're Democrat, you may feel different on policies and positions and other Democrats, and same on the Republican side. And this is not usually because of the personal opinion of the Member, it’s the range of policy positions among members of the same party is often because of the politics of their state or district. How Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning their constituents are.

16:45 There’s something called the Cook Partisan Voting Index, or the PBI, which is a measure of how strongly a district or state leans towards the Democrat or Republican party compared to the nation as a whole.

17:20: So when you're advocating to an elected official, it's not just them that needs to be convinced personally - it's their constituency. It matters the make up their constituency.

17:34: Members closer to the middle of the spectrum here are more vulnerable to losing their election to a member of the opposite party, and therefore the opposite parties campaign. Ads matter. They're more likely to break with their party, so vote against something that their party cares about. They're likely to work across party lines to be seen as pragmatic. They need to raise money because oftentimes whoever has more money wins election for better or for worse. And they often get more support from their party leadership so that more of their bills will be passed than other members of their party. They'll get leadership positions in the party because each goal is to keep the majority and so these swing seats really matter. And so, safer seats, those members such as Congressman Cortez, Senator Warren, Senator John Kennedy, they are more likely to introduce those bold, new, less popular ideas, and push the margins of it, whereas those members in the middle and moderate districts are going to champion popular non-controversial ideas. They're going to be opposed to policies that sort of push the boundaries of what's popular.

19:08: And so this really has a heavy impact on the rest of what we’re going to talk about because those members in the middle and the the opposite party, even though they're not in power, they really do dictate a lot of what happens.

19:35: I hope this slide helps explain why an elected official may or may not do what you request of them. And this is a generalization, the extent to which each lawmaker about things depends on many factors. But I think one of the things that drives them is helping people. They run for office to help people and they want to fulfill that, whether that’s doing casework helping people get in touch with the IRS or working on policy.

20:11: The second is representing their diverse constituency well. And so any particular lawmaker represents people who have conflicting views. You may have people who are climate change. Other people who are afraid to lose their career in oil and gas industry, right? You have teachers, business owners, union workers, property owners, low income folks. And so they’re trying to represent all these interests well.

20:41: And of course there’s their passions advancing their own priorities. Whether that's often based on their own life experiences or promises they made when they were campaigning.

20:51: Four is helping their party to take or keep the majority. When you have the majority of seats in a Chamber, that gives you a lot of power. You get to chair the committees, you get to sort of drive the agenda.

21:06: And number five - possibly taking on a leadership role in the party. Maybe they want to be a committee chair, so they're interested in improving themselves. They’ll make strategic partnerships with other lawmakers and national organizations. They want to remain good terms with powerful people in their party. If they’re looking to rise up in the ranks, maybe they want to become leader on certain new policy. They want to create a lane for themselves. There’s a legacy creation and a pride there.

21:43: And then of course, most election officials want to win reelection. So things that will really matter to them are positive news coverage, positive interactions with voters, raising money, avoiding negative campaigns. So they may be constantly adjusting course based on polls. They're sensitive to criticism. They really like to do high impact events with swing voters or as many voters as possible. They want to get in front of their constituents.

22:17: I want to move a little bit now into sort of that legislative process. So we'll get down to business - what do they actually work on. And one of the things of course, the main thing, is legislation. Congress has the the ability to enact and change laws. Every Congress, which refers to a two year period, we’re currently in the 117th Congress, every Congress more than 10,000 bills introduced…only about 1 to 3% of those become law. Not all bills are introduced and are created equal. They may have different intentions or strategies.

23:10: And so here are some of the different categories that I created of different types of legislation. The “Must-pass” category. So these are bills that you can usually assume will become law because of the consequences should that fail to happen. So there's an annual budget… It funds the federal government, all the programs within it. State and local government streams are very important. You can usually assume that will pass once a fiscal year.

23:43: Then you have the NDAA, which is is the annual budget of the Department of Defense. And then certain bills that require reauthorization regularly are in high demand. But even some in this category are struggling to be passed all of a sudden due to some, political tension.

24:00: Then you have “Emergency supplementals”. So if a major disaster like a hurricane happens or responding to COVID or what’s happening in Ukraine, Congress may have to pass, spending bills, emergency supplementals to provide some aid.

24:15: There are then “Priority packages”. So these are packages that might be important to the party that's in charge. So you may have heard of the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. So these are packages that the administration, the President and Congress put a lot of weight into trying to get these things done.

24:37: Then there are Messaging or marker bills. These are bills that members, a large chunk of that 10,000 bills that lawmakers introduced without the intention of those bills to become law. And so why would do that? Why would you introduce the bill if you don't have intention that this will…we’re going to try and sign this into law. Well, a few different reasons. One, it could be politically safe to show that you're active on the issue and you care about it, or could be to track popularity. So say you introduce, for example, the Green New Deal in the 116th Congress, maybe you had 50 cosponsors. You introduce it again in the 117th and now you have 75. So you can start to show gaining momentum for the idea and the policies behind it. That’s useful for a lot of different reasons The more cosponsors, the more likely that bill possibly is to become law because you can demonstrate whether or not it can pass. Usually if somebody cosponsors a bill, it means that they’ll vote yes.

25:45: And finally, there are bills that are intended to be provisions for future vehicles. Someone introduce a bill and they plan to offer it as an amendment in the NDAA next year.

26:03: I shared this sort of timeline on introducing bills to give you a sense of the best ways to engage and give feedback. Only members of Congress can introduce legislation, though sometimes the President or a committee will request that they first introduce it.

26:25 And it starts with the policy idea. Then there is what’s called the Legislative Council, where there's nonpartisan lawyers who take the bill idea idea and show you how to create it into legislative text and how to amend the statute and where to do that.

26:44: And then sometimes, the office or the Member will solicit feedback from stakeholders and this is the time when CTIPP will be asked to give technical assistance on a bill to make it more trauma-informed, for example. This is before the introduced, which is relationships with your lawmakers matter. If they don't know you, they can't engage you in these moments. If they're serious about bill, they may also ask for feedback from from the committee of jurisdiction.

27:13: Then sometimes they’ll circulate a “Dear Colleague Letter” asking for original cosponsors on the bill before introduction, then it'll be introduced, it receives a bill number, and is referred to the Committee of Jurisdiction for possible further action.

27:29: Any member of Congress can introduced legislation on any topic, However, Members who sit on the Committee of Jurisdiction are best positions to introduce bills that will advance because they have more resources and guidance from the committee staff and committee members, they can give more input on the agenda of that Committee and they have more knowledge of the chair’s priorities.

27:58: This is a list of all the committees in the House of Representatives and committees in the Senate. Each member Congress be assigned to two or three committees that they’ll sit on. The committee is chaired by a member of the majority party, usually the most senior member on the committee, oftentimes. They are elected, and each of these committees has different jurisdiction, different programs that they oversee.

28:25: The ones I starred here are generally considered the most powerful committees because of the amount of money that they have jurisdiction over, the types of programs have jurisdiction over, and the programs and policies that they manage.

28:44:So when a bill is referred to a committee, it can maybe get a hearing, which is when experts are invited out to give their opinion on topic - experts in favor and opposed to the proposal to weigh in. And then if you're lucky, they'll get a mark up. In order for the bill to advance to the House floor or the Senate floor, typically it has to be passed out of the Committee of Jurisdiction. So mark ups are when other Members on the committee can offer amendments and they take a vote on it. This is often when a lot of lobbyists get involved because it’s sort of the last one, last opportunities to change the bill before it advances and get a floor vote.

29:30: Here’s a quick review of the Legislative Process…The simplest way to get a bill passed is one chamber the bill gets introduced, it gets it passed committee mark up, it gets a floor vote and then the next chamber passes the exact same bill, and the President signs it. This process usually happens with least controversial bills - bills that have a lot of support, bipartisan support, because they can pass the House of Representatives, 2/3 majority and half the Senate unanimously.

30:05: Oftentimes more controversial legislation - there’ll be a longer process where a conference is required, so the annual appropriations bill, For example. One chamber will introduce it , they’ll mark it up, they’ll vote on it. Another chamber will introduce their own version of it, which is different and then they’ll go through the process, and then sometimes there’s a formal conference process where members of each party in each chamber are appointed to a conference committee, that’s temporary, and they try to come to a common ground if possible. If they are able to find compromise, that's version that will then be passed in both chambers

30:52: So let's talk a little bit about…what happens if a bill does get, how does a bill get a vote in each Chamber. And there are different rules for the House and for the Senate. The short version here is it's much more difficult to pass legislation in the Senate than in the House because of something called filibuster, which you may have heard about.

31:26: In the in the House, the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader, so the party with the most members in the House, decide the floor calendar. So they decide which is going to vote on the floor.

31:40: There’s a few options. One, you can pass it under suspension of the rules, which means you need 2/3 majority to pass it. You can pass…30 of these a week. These move through pretty fast if they have the support they need, you can pass the bill with unanimous consent. Or, you can pass a bill with unanimous consent or you can pass the bill under a special rule, which just needs a simple majority and then there’s often debate amendments, things like that, they’ll pass about one to three of these per session

31:14: “Session” just means like there are certain weeks where members of Congress are in D.C. voting and there are certain weeks when the members are in recess back in their districts where…face-to-face with constituents.

32:26: In the Senate, it’s much more difficult to bring a bill to the floor because it requires the Senate to agree to do that. And so you either need unanimous support, so all Senators agree this bill should get a vote, or, you need a simple majority.

32:51: So the filibuster is essentially where 60% or 60 senators need to agree that the bill should get a vote, right. And so the Senate will have no limit on debate time. And to end debate time and actually vote on something, you, a member has to file cloture. And then they need 60 votes to get that to the final vote. And so, it's rare that one party has more, 60 senators. And that means that in order for building to vote in the Senate, it either has to have unanimous support or 60 senators, meaning it has to be bipartisan. So partisan bills rarely make it through the Senate. The process of passing a bill in the Senate can require a week. It takes significantly longer.

33:50: The only exception to this is the budget reconciliation process. The process is pretty technical, but you may have heard about this process with Build Back Better.

33:59: It’s the only legislative vehicle that can bypass a filibuster. You only need a simple majority to pass it. But with Build Back Better, they couldn't even, they couldn't get that. So there weren't even, they would need all Democrats to support it, for example, and they couldn't get there. And so that's the sticking point with Build Back Better so far.

34:33: The annual Appropriations process. I just want to take a moment to talk about this. This is one of the must pass bills, and it shouldn't be overlooked as an advocate of a way to, try and advance your own priorities and shape the, what gets funded. And the work that we do in the trauma and healing space is often underfunded, right.