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May 31, 2022

King, Murkowski Join to Introduce Bipartisan Bill Supporting Children’s Mental Health

With COVID pandemic having created more social isolation in youth, research would study psychological challenges, offer solutions

BRUNSWICK, ME – As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today announced that they have introduced legislation to address the impact of childhood trauma on long-term health. The Improving Data Collection for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Act would authorize $7 million annually over five years to support Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research and data collection efforts to study the potential ties between childhood trauma and poor health conditions in adulthood. 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 ACEs.

“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, but 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.”

“Sadly, communities across Alaska face particularly high rates of domestic violence and abuse, which have real and lasting impacts on our children—the future leaders of our state. This bill not only works to ensure that adverse childhood experiences never occur in the first place, but defines historical trauma in federal law and directs research on the connection between historical trauma and adverse childhood experiences. This legislation will help us better understand the long-term impacts of ACEs and in turn, allow communities to heal,” said Senator Murkowski. “I am proud to lead this important effort alongside Senator King. Mental Health Awareness month may be coming to an end, but our work will not.”

“The Improving Data Collection for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Act provides a holistic approach to understand negative health outcome and is critical for state and community planning, prevention, and treatment across the lifespan,” said Kini-Ana Tinkham, Executive Director of the Maine Resilience Building Network. “Supporting community resilience is not one size fits all. The additional data will inform state and community driven solutions on health and well-being.”

According to the CDC, an estimated 62 percent of adults surveyed across 23 states reported that they had experienced one ACE during childhood and nearly one-quarter reported that they had experienced three or more ACEs. The CDC has recognized ACEs 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 ACEs. The King-Murkowski bill would make funding available to build on previous research and better understand how ACEs effect people throughout their lives.

More specifically, the bill’s funding would support the elements not included in previous CDC research, including:

  • The inclusion of a diverse nationally representative sample of participants;
  • The strength of the relationship between specific ACEs and negative health outcomes;
  • The intensity and frequency of ACEs;
  • The impact of historical trauma, in communities determined by the Secretary, on ACE scores;
  • The relative strength of particular risk and protective factors; and
  • The effect of social, economic, and community conditions on health and well-being.

A one-pager on the bill can be found HERE

Senator King has worked to address the startling rise in mental health issues from the COVID-19 pandemic. He has pushed for additional resources to address the epidemic, including proposals he highlighted in a recent op-ed for the Bangor Daily News. King recently introduced several pieces of legislation to address the crisis, including legislation to require private health insurance to cover three behavioral health care visits each yearsupport social-emotional learning for children, and increase access to mental health resources in schools. He also introduced a bipartisan resolution earlier this month to mark May 5th as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Senators King and Murkowski  were recently 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.

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