Heitkamp Tours Generation Art Space on Turtle Mountain, Highlights Importance of Trauma Informed Care for Native Youth
U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today visited a clinic and art space on Turtle Mountain that helps Native American youth overcome mental health challenges they face because of traumatic experiences, such as abuse or neglect, that far too many of them experience at young ages.
Heitkamp met with Dr. Tami Jollie-Trottier a licensed clinical psychologist and Bush Fellow who started Generation Art Space on Turtle Mountain to help children on the reservation heal through art. They also spoke about a bill Heitkamp introduced earlier this year to better help recognize and support children and families that have experienced traumatic events, particularly those in Native communities, to help mitigate the detrimental impact exposure to trauma could have on them as they grow and develop. Heitkamp has long been working raise awareness about the importance of providing trauma-informed care to children in need.
Trauma is the negative impact that severely stressful events, such as witnessing violence, exposure to unaddressed mental health issues, or abuse can have on children that can lead to lifelong harmful effects such as neurological and behavioral health challenges. Children who have four or more such experiences have triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer and a 20-year difference in life expectancy. Those who experience six or more traumatic events are 30-times more likely to attempt suicide.
For Native youth, suicide is the second leading cause of death and 22 percent experience post-traumatic stress – the same rate as newly returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Nationally, 58 percent of all American children have witnessed or been a victim of crime.
“To help improve care for Native children and help set them up on paths to grow and succeed, we need to do everything possible to reduce traumatic experiences which they face at higher rates than others and also mitigate the impacts of facing abuse, witnessing violence, or grappling with poverty,” said Heitkamp. “Too often Native youth have the cards stacked against them, but through programs like Generation Art Space here on Turtle Mountain and through legislation like my bill to combat trauma, we can make real changes that will impact children throughout the course of their lives. By making sure health professionals, law enforcement officers, and educators are trained to identify and help children who are struggling to cope with traumatic experiences, as my bill would do, we can make a difference. Dr. Jollie-Trottier is certainly doing her part.”
Heitkamp’s Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act aims to comprehensively tackle the causes and impacts of trauma, including by identifying, testing, and disseminating new models of recognizing and supporting children and families that have experienced trauma. The bill would work to provide a more trauma-informed and supportive law enforcement, health service, and workforce network that children and families, particularly those in tribal communities, need for healthy growth and development.