October 23, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced legislation to promote healthy childhoods for children across the United States. The Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (PACE) Act would authorize grants to public health entities for the prevention of negative events during childhood like violence, abuse or neglect. The public health entities, like the Center for Disease Control (CDC), would use these grants for prevention activities or intervention. The CDC Director would also be required to conduct studies and research on ways to prevent negative childhood experiences.
Existing research shows that certain negative events, circumstances, or maltreatment during childhood – known as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – are associated with negative health outcomes both in childhood and later in life. An increased understanding of the connection between ACEs and long-term health is now even more critical, as studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show that social isolation, school closures, and other stressors unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic may be amplifying the need for additional mental health resources.
“Over the last several years, unprecedented challenges have inflicted serious traumas on our children, while at the same time hampering their social ties and support networks. These traumas hurt right now – but their lingering effects may be even more severe,” said Senator King. “Studies have shown that Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACEs – can contribute to long-term health challenges. We need more data to understand and mitigate these impacts, particularly in light of rising rates of mental health challenges for our young people. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill with Senator Murkowski, and urge Congress to take this step so we can find opportunities to help our children grow into healthy adults.”
“Children should be able to face life with positivity. Sadly, too many kids in Alaska are forced to deal with difficult family situations, and are faced with adverse childhood experiences that impact their mental health in the long term,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “That’s why I’m joining Senator King on this effort to protect kids against adverse childhood experiences, while encouraging parents and families to work on creating healthy relationships and habits.”
“Given the connection between ACEs and the risk of overdose and suicide, it is critical that we invest in efforts to prevent ACEs in all communities,” said Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, President and CEO, Trust for America's Health. This important legislation would support research to build upon our previous understanding of trauma and ACEs and give communities the tools to help protect children and promote lifelong health and well-being.”
“Every child is filled with tremendous promise,” said Dr. Melissa Merrick, CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America), “Promoting positive childhood experiences sets them up to thrive. PCA America supports the Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences Act which will boost resources for preventing, mitigating, and understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences through data-driven, evidenced-based strategies and activities that leverage multi-sector partnerships.”
According to the CDC, an estimated 62 percent of adults surveyed across 23 states reported that they had experienced one adverse childhood experience and nearly one-quarter reported that they had experienced three or more. The CDC has recognized adverse childhood experiences as a major public health concern and made it a priority area for focus in the National Center for Injury Prevention. However, there remain significant gaps in research to better define and understand these negative experiences. The King-Murkowski bill would make funding available to build on previous research and better understand how these negative experiences effect people throughout their lives.
This legislation would:
Last year, Senators King and Murkowski were honored with the “Publius Award” from the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress for public service and pragmatic solutions that avoid the political winds of the day. They have consistently worked together to, improve healthcare options for Mainers and Alaskans like expanding telehealth access, expand the mental healthcare workforce in rural America, and lower winter energy costs for families.