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Talking Points

2019 Legislative Priorities

Voices and our partners in the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia have adopted a Unified Policy Agenda for the 2019 General Assembly Session. The Virginia General Assembly meets January and February in Richmond where we will advocate to adopt these priorities from our Unified Policy Agenda. The Governor’s proposed budget includes many items that were included as legislative and budget priorities of the Unified Policy Agenda. The legislature will consider how to accept or amend the Governor’s budget proposal. Please help support the inclusion of these items by speaking up at a town hall or hearing or participating in our Advocacy Day on January 30th.

Improve relationships between students and school counselors by providing an additional $36 million to local school divisions budgets for school counselor positions. These additional positions are needed to provide close and effective relationships with students, to identify concerns among students, and to help implement trauma-informed practices and strategies. The Governor’s proposal to provide an additional $36 million for school counselors is an excellent first step to reduce the ratio of counselors to students and to ensure that students are healthy and ready to learn. In the future, students would also benefit from additional support staff with different skills, such as social workers, psychologists, and nurses, and more community-based options for children’s mental health treatment.

Ensure that school security personnel receive appropriate training and feedback to implement trauma-informed strategies. The Governor’s budget includes as a proposal to fund more school resource officers, as well as more training and technical assistance from the Center on School and Campus Safety. Required training in trauma-informed practice and working in school environments is needed to ensure productive relationships between school resource officers and students.

Support the timely adoption the federal Family First Prevention Services Act by increasing staff support to implement new initiatives connected to the first transformation of the child welfare system in nearly 40 years. Additional staff in the Department of Social Services is needed to identify gaps and to develop new solutions to implement the Act. Staff will help with designing new processes to use Title IV-E funds for prevention as well as scaling up trauma-informed and evidence-based services for caregivers and children.

Improve the integration of mental health services in primary care by supporting the Governor’s proposal to provide $1.23 million in state funds to establish a pediatric mental health access program in Virginia. The Virginia Mental Health Access Project (VMAP) helps to improve primary care providers’ ability to address children’s mental health needs through additional training, improved care coordination, and behavioral health consultation services.

Provide $250,000 in additional funding to the Family and Children’s Trust Fund (FACT) to increase the number of grants supporting trauma-informed communities. FACT currently has resources to fund two community networks out of the 15 communities where networks exist. A budget amendment to provide additional state resources could be leveraged by FACT to raise matching private resources.

Why should policymakers focus on preventing childhood trauma and promoting resilience?

Research shows that chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause toxic, traumatic biological responses to the developing brain, often with long-term consequences for health and wellness. Yet this research also tells us that responsive relationships with caregivers and strong community supports can buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), allowing children to develop to their potential. ACEs are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A growing body of research, based on the ground-breaking 1998 CDC and Kaiser Permanente study, has sought to quantify the prevalence of ACEs and illuminate their connection to negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as obesity, depression, and other chronic health conditions that may be developed later in life.