Published June 30, 2020
Congratulations to Assistant Professor Elizabeth Bowen and PhD Student Andrew Irish on the publication of their article, "Trauma and principles of trauma-informed care in the U.S. federal legislative response to the opioid epidemic: A policy mapping analysis," in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
Bowen, E. A., & Irish, A. (2020). Trauma and principles of trauma-informed care in the U.S. federal legislative response to the opioid epidemic: A policy mapping analysis. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
Objective: The U.S. declared the opioid epidemic as a national public health emergency in 2017. Given the strong and bidirectional relationship between trauma and substance misuse, policy responses to this crisis that reflect principles of trauma-informed care are especially salient. This study is the first to use trauma-informed policy analysis to systematically assess the U.S. Congressional response to the opioid epidemic. Method: We used policy mapping methods to build and analyze a dataset of all opioid-related bills and resolutions proposed in Congress between 2009 and 2017 (N = 188). Following an established trauma-informed policy analysis framework, 2 researchers reviewed these policies and coded their incorporation of trauma-specific language and the principles of safety; choice; trust and transparency; collaboration and peer support; empowerment; and intersectionality. We calculated coding frequencies in these categories and rates of intercoder agreement. Results: A minority of policies (10.6%) directly mentioned trauma and 55% of policies incorporated at least 1 trauma-informed principle. Safety was the most commonly coded principle (38.3%), while intersectionality was the least (6.9%). Conclusions: Our analysis found limited attention to trauma in opioid-related federal legislation. Based on these findings and following the example of coalitions such as the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, advocates can mobilize for better inclusion of trauma-informed principles in opioid policy. Further, this study demonstrates the feasibility of applying the trauma-informed policy analysis framework to code Congressional policies using publicly available data, a replicable methodology with potential application at federal and state levels.