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House Leaders Call on President to Address National Health Crisis
Expert and Survivor Testimony on the Devastating Impacts and Pervasiveness of Psychological Trauma Triggers Prompt Call to Action
Washington, DC (September, 14, 2006) - Members of the U.S. House Bi-partisan Caucus on Addiction, Treatment and Recovery will ask President Bush to budget federal funding for public education and awareness to help alleviate the growing health crisis of psychological trauma in the United States.
The move comes following an issue briefing on trauma that was hosted yesterday on Capitol Hill by Witness Justice, in partnership with consumer groups and experts from a broad range of interest areas (e.g. mental health, crime victim, veteran affairs, child abuse, disaster preparedness, and more). Expert panelists concurred on the need for a trauma education and awareness initiative and the need for trauma to be considered and integrated into systems of service so that survivors have the greatest potential to heal.
In their letter to the President, Caucus Co-chairs Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R- MN) state, “It has become more clear than ever that psychological trauma is a primary—but often ignored or overlooked—factor of health (both physical and mental) with which survivors of violent crime, abuse, disaster, terrorism, and war must contend, and this presents a public health crisis in the United States that needs to be addressed immediately.”
The Caucus is working with other members of Congress to gain additional signatures before submission to the President. Given that the briefing itself was co-sponsored by nine national organizations and endorsed by approximately 30 more—from organizations whose focuses range from domestic violence to veterans affairs to children’s mental health and others—widespread congressional support seems likely.
“A public education and awareness campaign is a necessary, and cost-effective, first step to help alleviate this crisis,” the letter continues. Such a campaign “will not only help our nation’s suffering men, women, and children to heal and save billions of taxpayer dollars in the long run, but it will also play a central role in preventing crime/violence and substance abuse for generations to come.”
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI), Co-chair, Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, stated, “We provide prosthetic limbs - to put our soldiers back together physically, but we don’t consider how to put their heads back together. The traumatic impact of war on our soldiers is significant, making trauma prevention and long-term support so important.”
“This represents a significant step forward, not just for victims of violence-induced trauma but for all survivors of psychological trauma,” said Helga West, President and CEO of Witness Justice. “Long-term support that includes an understanding of the nature and impact of trauma is arguably the single greatest need facing survivors of violence because the trauma experience is shared by each and every victim to some degree. This marks a major cultural shift in how we work with survivors and support them through the healing process – and one that will be far more effective.”
“The prevention and reduction of trauma requires communities, families and policymakers to recognize its importance in public policy and to work towards making it a priority in this country,” remarked David L. Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO, National Mental Health Association. “The trauma associated with chronic and acute exposure to violence in homes and communities across the country continues unabated, and often overlooked. Research is still emerging, but it is clear that these traumatic events have drastic implications – particularly for the emotional and mental development of children.”
“Rights and services are essential to crime victims,” added Roberta Roper, Founder, Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center (f/k/a Stephanie Roper Committee & Foundation), Chair, Maryland State Board of Victim Services, and icon of the crime victims’ rights movement. “Receiving support to promote their healing from trauma also should be recognized as a crime victim’s right. Crisis intervention and longer-term mental health services would not only help to restore crime victims, but would assure them that America cares and will help them to return to cost effective and productive lives.”
Thomas J. Berger, Ph.D., Chair, PTSD & Substance Abuse Committee, Vietnam Veterans of America , noted, “Given the nature of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that many service members are serving multiple combat tours, we have no reason to believe that the rate of PTSD for these veterans will be any less than that found for Vietnam veterans.”
Witness Justice is a national, grassroots, nonprofit organization created by survivors for survivors. Our mission is to empower and assist victims of violence and their loved ones with both healing from trauma and in navigating the criminal justice process. Witness Justice offers support regardless of where a victim lives, when or where the crime occurred, or whether the crime was ever reported.
President and CEO