WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), along with Reps. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Karen Bass (CA-37), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), wrote to Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (NJ-06) requesting robust investments for community violence intervention programs and trauma recovery centers in the Build Back Better Act.
“We agree with public health experts that the gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis requiring a public health response,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “To effectively break the cycles of crime, we must invest in evidence-based approaches to safety and justice that meaningfully address the unmet needs of crime survivors and entire communities.”
Gun violence and other forms of violent crime disproportionately harm Black and Brown communities, but despite substantial increases in law enforcement expenditures, research has consistently shown that existing services fail to provide crime victims the assistance they need. Moreover, a growing body of research demonstrates that untreated trauma can contribute to substance abuse, mental health issues, housing instability, or other problems that increase the risk of being a victim again in the future. Unaddressed childhood trauma, specifically, is a barrier to social development and is also linked to several leading causes of death in America, including heart disease, lung disease, substance use, and suicide.
In their letter, the lawmakers requested that Congress allocate $5 billion for community violence intervention, as outlined by President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, and $700 million in additional resources to support trauma recovery centers nationwide. The lawmakers also called for robust funding for local public health departments to address the root causes of childhood trauma through community-based, culturally competent, gender-responsive, and trauma-informed care.
“To rebuild a better, more just and equitable nation reeling from this devastating pandemic, it is crucial to invest in the infrastructure needed to support survivors of trauma and the mental wellbeing of our children,” the lawmakers continued. “We look forward to working with you to ensure there is a more effective national response to community violence that reduces violence and takes into account the needs of crime survivors.”
Throughout her career, Congresswoman Pressley has been a tireless advocate for trauma-conscious policymaking. In June, she re-introduced the STRONG Support for Children Act, that takes a holistic and community-based approach to addressing the growing crisis of childhood trauma.
In March 2021, Rep. Pressley sent a letter to President Biden calling on him to address the nation’s growing trauma crisis and laying out a series of steps the administration should take to confront the far-reaching hurt plaguing our communities and our nation. In April, she published an op-ed where she reflected on the collective pain experienced by communities in her district over the past year.
In July 2019, she worked with then Chairman Elijah Cummings to convene one of the first-ever Congressional hearings on childhood trauma. Watch Congresswoman Pressley’s full question line and follow-up questions here and here.
As a Boston City Councilor, she convened the Council’s first-ever listening-only session to hear directly from those impacted by the trauma of community gun violence.
In December, she introduced H.R. 5325, the Ending PUSHOUT Act, to end the traumatic criminalization of Black, brown, and Indigenous girls in school. Earlier this summer, she introduced H.R. 7848, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, to reduce the growing presence of school-based police officers and invest in school nurses, social workers, mental health practitioners, and other professionals trained in trauma-aware practices.