April 26, 2018

Manchin, Capito, Kaine Introduce Legislation to Care for Children Impacted by Opioid Abuse

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Handle with Care Act to recognize and build on the successful Handle with Care program in West Virginia. The program connects children who interact with law enforcement in domestic violence situations, drug raids, overdoses, and more, to school resources that are designed to provide the child with trauma-informed care.

“The impact of the opioid epidemic is felt across West Virginia but the impact on our innocent children is perhaps the most devastating of all. Our schools should serve as a refuge for every child and I am proud of the Handle with Care program developed in West Virginia to ensure our children experiencing trauma at home are treated with love and understanding at school. The Handle with Care Act will expand on the success of the West Virginia program so that schools across the country can implement this important program,” Senator Manchin said.

“Many of West Virginia’s youth look to their teachers and schools for guidance and protection – especially after experiencing a traumatic event. We’ve seen this particularly as a result of the growing opioid epidemic,” Senator Capito said. “The Handle With Care program has been instrumental in helping young West Virginians cope with the negative effects they may be experiencing after a traumatic event. By preparing our teachers and schools, they will be able to better provide the necessary and appropriate support for students who need it the most.”

“All too often, traumatic events have a devastating ripple effect across children’s lives. Given the right resources, schools can play a critical support role for kids impacted by trauma and provide them with a safe haven. I’m proud to partner with Senators Manchin and Capito to help ensure students affected by the opioid crisis and other trauma get the resources they need to thrive,” Senator Kaine said.

“Trauma turns off the learning switch in children exposed to crime, violence and abuse and Handle with Care helps to turn that switch back on.  Handle with Care helps identify children most at risk, provides teachers with supports to address that trauma and advocates for co-located therapy services with professionals who specialize in trauma. The partnership between Law Enforcement, Schools and Mental Health Professionals give trauma exposed children the best chance for succeeding in school and in life,” said Andrea Darr, Director of the WV Center for Children’s Justice.

“We are happy to support legislation that makes the Handle with Care initiative a national model for replication. Crittenton Services, Inc., in West Virginia has been a key partner in this initiative and can attest to the difference it makes when schools, law enforcement and their partners work together with a sense of urgency to mitigate the impact of childhood trauma and support healing for children and youth, particularly marginalized girls and young women, across this country,” said Jeannette Pai-Espinosa, President of the National Crittenton Foundation.

“The Handle with Care Act of 2018 is important legislation that will boost coordination between law enforcement and school-level personnel to better support students affected by trauma-related events. We must do all we can to ensure these students receive timely interventions to mitigate the impact of trauma so they can focus on learning,” said Dr. L. Earl Franks, Executive Director of the National Association of Elementary School Principal.

“Nothing offends a principal more than the loss of human potential. Yet every, day, principals see that potential robbed from their students by an opioid epidemic that devastates their schools and their families. With every student who suffers the trauma of opioid abuse, we lose a bit more of our future. I applaud Senators Manchin, Kaine, and Capito for casting a spotlight on this public health crisis and, more important, for championing legislation to battle it,” said Joann Bartoletti, Executive Director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The Handle with Care program is as simple as law enforcement sending a “Handle with Care” alert to the child’s school. While the school does not receive any information other than the child’s name and the alert, it enables the school to exercise the trauma-informed training provided in coordination with the Handle with Care program. The goal of the program is to promote safe schools, and communities, while ensuring that every child is able to thrive in school even when they face trauma at home.

The Handle with Care Act would authorize $10 million in federal funding to establish 5-year demonstration grants for states to address the impact of substance use related and other trauma on children and youth in public schools by strengthening or building Handle with Care programs. These programs would:

  1. Develop and share evidence-based or evidence-informed training for trauma informed care and provide that training in schools connected to the program.
  2. Connect students who experience trauma at home to those resources in schools via the “Handle with Care” alert from law enforcement.
  3. Require programs to report on the success of the Handle with Care programs in improving student outcomes.

Endorsed By:           

  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • AASA – School Superintendents Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • National Association for School Psychologists
  • National Education Association
  • The National Crittenton Association
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • American Psychological Association
  • West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice