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Children Now Joins Assemblymember Bonta & California Attorney General in Legislation to Help Kids Exposed to Trauma

January 13, 2016

OAKLAND, CA— This week Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 1644, co-sponsored by Children Now, to increase support for one of the greatest public health crises of our time: adverse childhood experiences and trauma. The bill is part of a multi-year effort to help children exposed to abuse, neglect, violence and other traumatic experiences. 

AB 1644 would establish a four-year pilot program based on the Early Mental Health Initiative (EMHI), which from 1992 to 2012 awarded matching grants to local schools to fund prevention and intervention programs providing support for kids experiencing adjustment challenges in school. Over 75 percent of children who completed the EMHI program showed improvement in learning, attendance, school adjustment or other school-related competencies. 

The supports AB 1644 would bring to kids suffering trauma are urgently needed, according to Children Now President Ted Lempert. 

“Childhood trauma can impede emotional well-being, diminish kids’ school performance and set children up for a lifetime of problems,” he said. “This bill will help kids exposed to trauma reach their full potential by helping schools provide quality mental health support to their youngest students. We applaud Assemblymember Bonta and Attorney General Harris for their leadership in bringing this critical issue forward.”

“A child’s exposure to trauma is one of the greatest public health threats of our time, seriously compromising their long-term physical and emotional well-being,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “As Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, I have authored legislation and supported and highlighted innovative policies and programs to combat the impact of trauma on our state’s most challenged communities. I’m excited to author AB 1644 with the support of Attorney General Kamala Harris and a stellar group of advocates.”

Bill co-sponsor Attorney General Harris is currently leading a collaboration of state agencies to prevent, identify and heal the impacts of violence and trauma on children across the state. "Childhood trauma can have a devastating and lasting impact not only on our children but also on our families and our communities,” Harris stated. “The evidence is clear that when we don't intervene, many children are more likely to be either victims or perpetrators of crime. This legislation will connect our most vulnerable children with the support they need and is a smart investment in the health and safety of our state.”

AB 1644 would update EMHI to specifically focus on schools serving students who have experienced high levels of childhood trauma and adversity, expand the program to include younger children, provide regional trainings and support to schools on mental health and trauma, and offer help leveraging available funding sources to support local programs. 

AB 1644 is sponsored by Children Now, Time for Kids and the Department of Justice.

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