Shaheen, Pappas Introduce Legislation to Launch Nationwide Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team (ACERT) Programs Piloted in New Hampshire

October 29, 2019

Senator Shaheen introduced standalone ACERT grant legislation concurrently in the Senate. 

Bill is a companion to a portion of Shaheen’s ‘Turn the Tide Act’, which allows local governments and community-based organizations to apply for grants to address adverse childhood experiences associated with exposure to trauma.

WASHINGTON, DC - Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Congressman Chris Pappas have introduced Senate and House versions of the National ACERT Grant Program Authorization Act, which would establish a federal grant program to provide resources for law enforcement and first responders to connect with local child specialists and professionals to intervene and mitigate the impacts of childhood trauma.

ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, are events in a child’s life which have a heavy impact on their future wellbeing, success in life, and risk of violence. This legislation would allow for the creation of ACE Response Teams (ACERTs) which would deploy as soon as the scene has been cleared to provide services and care to children who have experienced trauma. 

“The substance use disorder epidemic has been particularly devastating in New Hampshire because of both the scope of this crisis and its persistence. That’s why it’s critical that our first responders on the frontlines have the resources they need to invest in early intervention and keep our kids safe,” said Shaheen. “This new legislation compliments my bill – the Turn the Tide Act – and establishes a grant to support the proliferation of programs like ACERT in Manchester. Grant programs like this play an important role in empowering our communities with the tools they need to help children who have experienced trauma, so Granite Staters of tomorrow do not succumb to the crisis we’re fighting today.”

“Our law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and first responders are often the first face a child sees after a traumatic experience,” said Pappas. “Adverse childhood experiences can have a lifelong impact on kids. These response teams are crucial tools for communities to help mitigate trauma and ensure our kids have bright futures.”

“ACERT aims to break the vicious cycles of opioids, substance use disorders, and other social and public health issues,” said Lara Quiroga, of Amoskeag Health, which launched the first ACERT pilot in Manchester in 2015.  “We cannot let the opioid crisis carry on to the next generation – connecting children and families to services will disrupt that cycle and put them on a path toward a healthier future.”

“I’m proud of the work being done with ACERT, we always have to be willing to try new ideas that will help our community,” said Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano.  “In 2015 the idea came to life with Manchester Police Department Investigators looking at the bigger picture, we have to always be looking to the future and protecting our children is one of the most important aspects of looking forward. I couldn’t be more proud of the work ACERT does each and every day, this program is a priority for us and should be for all communities.”

The legislation is a companion to a portion of Senator Shaheen’s ‘Turn the Tide Act’, which would create new programs and increase spending on existing grants to fight addiction. The legislation authorizes $10 million a year for three years for DOJ & HHS to establish a national ACERT program, modeled on the pilots here in New Hampshire. That Senate proposal would provide $20 million for DOJ & HHS to establish a national ACERT program, modeled on the pilots here in New Hampshire. 

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded the fight against the substance use disorder epidemic in the Senate. Shaheen helped negotiate the bipartisan agreement in 2018 that outlined the two years of opioid response spending – totaling $6 billion to respond to the opioid crisis. This included the set-aside funding for states with the highest mortality rates, like New Hampshire. This critical additional funding, which the Senator helped broker, has been included by Congress over the last two fiscal years. As a result of her efforts, New Hampshire received a more than ten-fold increase in opioid treatment funding through the SOR grant program.