February 2, 2024
Pressley Urges HHS to Address Spike in Childhood Trauma Following COVID-19 Pandemic
With Pandemic Exacerbating Negative Youth Mental Health, Pressley Calls for Comprehensive, Trauma-Informed Plan
WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) urged Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to address the growing crisis of childhood trauma that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter is the latest in the Congresswoman’s longstanding advocacy on childhood trauma since her days on the Boston City Council.
In her letter, Rep. Pressley called attention to the worsening mental health disparities and increases in traumatic stress for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth, adolescents of color, and LGBTQ youth, and requested the agency address the crisis through trauma-informed, healing-centered, community-based, gender-responsive, culturally-specific, and reparative approaches. Young people, particularly in the middle of learning, building relationships, and developing their sense of self, were affected by the challenges of grief and isolation caused by the pandemic.
“Too many children have been impacted by grief, depression, and neglect, but their trauma has not been met with significant federal action,” wrote Rep. Pressley. “This crisis existed before the pandemic, but things are now far worse. We cannot continue to allow cycles of trauma to remain unaddressed.”
“We have all faced and continue to be impacted by the pandemic, an economic recession, the climate crisis, and a national reckoning on police brutality and racial justice, among other overwhelming stressors — all branches of government must act urgently and intentionally in our efforts to protect the mental health and wellbeing of our children,” Rep. Pressley continued. “It is incumbent on us as policymakers to recognize that the status quo approach will not bring about the meaningful and equitable care our children need and deserve.”
As a Boston City Councilor, Rep. Pressley convened the first ever listening-only session in the City of Boston on trauma. During her first term in Congress, she partnered with former Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings to hold the first-ever series of Congressional hearings dedicated to combating childhood trauma. Rep. Pressley has also introduced legislation to take a holistic and community-based approach to the childhood trauma and written to President Biden laying out a series of steps he should take to confront the far-reaching hurt plaguing our communities and our nation.
The letter is endorsed by Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy & Practice (CTIPP), Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI), Children’s Home Society of America (CHSA), Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA), Futures without Violence, and the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC).
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Throughout her career, Congresswoman Pressley has been a tireless advocate for trauma-conscious policymaking.
- In April 2023, Rep. Pressley re-introduced her Ending PUSHOUT Act, her bold legislation to end the punitive pushout of girls of color from schools and disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway.
- Rep. Pressley is also the lead sponsor of the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, legislation to prohibit the use of federal funds to increase police presence in schools and instead invest resources to school districts to hire counselors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers.
- In March 2023, Rep. Pressley celebrated $250,000 in Community Project Funding she secured for Big Sister Association of Greater Boston (Big Sister) to support its one-to-one mentoring and enrichment programs for girls.
- Rep Pressley introduced the STRONG Support for Children Act to take 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 Cummings to convene 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 on trauma.