Blackburn, Shaheen, Pappas Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Launch Nationwide Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team (ACERT) Programs

August 29, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) joined Congressman Chris Pappas (N.H.-01) to reintroduce Senate and House versions of the National ACERT Grant Program Authorization Act, which would authorize federal resources for communities to address adverse childhood experiences associated with exposure to trauma.

“We must ensure that we provide every necessary resource to combat childhood trauma for Tennessee communities in need,” said Senator Blackburn. “Due to trauma’s effects on brain development, early intervention is crucial to alleviate the effects of childhood trauma and prevent long-term harm. Tennessee is home to one of the leading Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) programs, Building Strong Brains, which serves as a national model for programs around the country. The National ACERT Grant Program Authorization Act would build on Tennessee’s progress by giving each state the tools they need to deliver services and care to children who have experienced trauma.”

“Exposure to traumatic experiences during childhood can have devastating, long-term consequences on children’s physical, mental and emotional development. As crises like the substance use disorder epidemic continue to impact families, its essential that first responders have the resources necessary to administer early intervention and trauma-informed care for affected families,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill would establish a grant program to support the development and creation of critical, proven programs like Manchester’s ACERT in communities nationwide. These programs are crucial to ensuring children and families have the support necessary to break the cycle of trauma and lead healthy, successful lives.”

“Adverse childhood experiences can have lifelong impacts on our children, and ACE response teams, or ACERTs, serve as a critical tool for early intervention and future prevention of incidents of childhood trauma. Put simply, ACERTs mitigate the impacts of trauma and ensure kids have bright futures and live full lives ahead,” said Congressman Pappas. “Law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and first responders are often the first face a child sees after a traumatic experience, and ACERTs partner them with local health providers and child advocates to ensure children have the services and care they need. In New Hampshire, we have already seen the positive impacts these programs can bring to local communities, and I’m proud to join Senator Shaheen in introducing this bipartisan legislation to bring this program to the national level.” 

“Through our Building Strong Brains initiative, Tennessee has developed innovative strategies to mitigate the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, prioritizing partnerships with non-profit organizations that do tremendous work across the state,” said Margie Quin, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. “As our department continues to serve Tennessee children and address evolving needs, we are grateful for Senator Blackburn’s leadership on this important issue at the federal level."

"Amoskeag Health is thrilled to hear of the National ACERT Grant Program Authorization Act put forth by Senator Shaheen and Senator Blackburn. Since the program’s inception, Manchester ACERT has connected over 2,500 children to therapeutic services with the goal of mitigating the negative health consequences associated with adverse childhood experiences. The ACEs Response Team partnership between the Manchester Police Department, YWCA of NH, and Amoskeag Health has acted as a model for 15 other replicating communities across New Hampshire and Massachusetts. We have seen interest grow exponentially and the ACERT Technical Assistance Center receives inquiries from states reaching far beyond the boundaries of New England, looking for support to bring this model to families most in need. Federal funding for national ACERT expansion would be instrumental to ensuring police departments have the resources needed to partner with mental health and family serving agencies in a shared mission of addressing childhood trauma,” said Katie Burns, MPH, ACERT Manager.


  1. 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. 
  2. Tennessee has been a leading voice on combating chronic childhood trauma, having established its own statewide ACE initiative, Building Strong Brains. The program is focused on preventing and alleviating adverse childhood experiences to ensure children live rich and healthy lives. It serves as a blueprint for programs across the country.
  3. The National ACERT Grant Program, modeled after the successful statewide programs in Tennessee and New Hampshire, would authorize $10 million a year over four years for grants to state, local, and tribal governments and community-based organizations to address adverse childhood experiences associated with exposure to trauma. 

Full text of the legislation can be read here.