By Whitney Marris, Trauma Therapist and Director of Trauma-Informed Practice & System Transformation
NOTE: The enclosed is sample legislation from CTIPP’s 2022 Trauma-Informed Policy Development Highlights. It is meant to be educational and aspirational for trauma-informed advocacy.
Sample Legislation: California Assembly Bill 1117
CTIPP Policy Dimension: Improve quality and accessibility of community-based services (64% of trauma-informed bills ITTIC analyzed were aligned with this dimension)
Summary: This Democrat-led measure, which was not signed into law this legislative session, and yet, holds great promise for future implementation and also as a model for other states to emulate and advocate around, would establish the “Healthy Start: Toxic Stress and Trauma Resiliency for Children Program,” which would award qualified entities that with grants to plan and operate programs providing support services to students and their families in the community.
Qualified entities that can apply include schools or local educational agencies with higher-than-average dropout, suicide, bullying, housing insecurity, justice involvement, or suspension/expulsion rates, community-based organizations that specialize in providing pediatric primary care, addressing mental health/trauma/toxic stress, or support underserved populations, or county behavioral health agencies or federal Head Start/Early Head Start program administrators that work in partnership with qualified local education agencies.
The bill defines “support services” that would be provided through the program as “services that will enhance local responses to ensure trauma and toxic stress treatment is preserved during and after the COVID-19 pandemic to improve physical, behavioral, mental, social, emotional, and intellectual development of children and their families,” including “case-managed health, mental health, social, and academic support services benefiting children and their families” and outlines specific activities, many of which directly call for trauma-informed approaches and practices.
To accomplish what the bill calls for, the measure indicates that a Children’s Coordinated Services Response Team must be established with a diverse membership and specified duties, including reviewing grant applications and providing recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature, and the State Department of Education regarding the program.
To support the need for the provisions the measure sets forth, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature declares some notable things upfront, including:
“California will need a strategic, long-term response that will direct children and families to many services, including trauma-informed mental health services, educational supports, and social services. Children and families need help navigating the ever-changing and complex systems of services that they need now more than ever to meet their basic needs”
“For too long, childhood trauma and toxic stress, along with the accompanying long-term negative impacts on academic achievement and health, have frequently been identified by already burdened teachers and administrators as significant barriers to children’s educational success and overall development…. If unaddressed, ACEs and toxic stress will cost California over $1,000,000,000,000 in the next decade due to the costs of direct health care and years of life lost from poor health, disability, or early death.”
“Untreated intergenerational trauma and toxic stress create challenges for the entire family and can contribute to a pupil’s inability to learn and thrive academically and later in life. A lack of a unified systems approach to treat identified trauma in communities impacted disproportionately by the pandemic and historically under-resourced creates an urgent need for a long-term response to direct families to trauma-informed mental health care and services.”
“Unfortunately, although California is investing heavily in significant efforts to screen for ACEs and toxic stress, it lacks investment in a reliable service delivery system to treat identified trauma and toxic stress in pupils, individual families, and communities. The challenges facing families and children at the state and local levels in accessing wraparound services and trauma-informed mental health supports across child-serving sectors, and the consequences of failure, are intergenerational and may irreparably worsen as communities try to prepare for long-term recovery.”
“If California is to cut ACEs and toxic stress in half in one generation, it must invest in a reliable, ongoing, community-based service delivery system. Coordinated services at the local level, when funded and evaluated by the state previously, showed that pupils and their families physical, mental, and emotional health improved, and their academic success improved greatly.”
“It is imperative that the state invests in a data-driven approach to address trauma and toxic stress in communities with high COVID-19 rates and those that have been historically under-resourced. This includes trauma-informed care and innovative ways to leverage federal, state, and local funding to support a whole-child and whole-family approach.”
Explore CTIPP’s 2022 Trauma-Informed Policy Development Highlights