MANCHESTER, N.H. – Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH) stopped by the Manchester Central Fire Station on Friday morning for a candid discussion on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Response Team (ACERT) and its impact on the city.
Pappas was accompanied by Amoskeag Health Director of Strategic Initiatives for Children Lara Quiroga, the leader of Manchester’s ACERT program and Pappas’ guest to Tuesday’s State of the Union Address in Washington.
“It’s always important to check in with folks who are on the front lines of the addiction crisis and are participating in the ACERT program here in Manchester,” said Pappas. (ACERT in Manchester) is really a model for the nation in terms of bringing community partners together to protect our kids and address trauma, especially as we deal with the crisis of addiction and mental health in our communities.”
Manchester Fire Department Chief Dan Goonan praised the program, which brings mental health workers and first responders to the scene of traumatic incidents involving children known as Adverse Childhood Experiences of ACEs, to protect those children from possible long-term psychological impacts.
Goonan also praised Pappas for his work obtaining funding for ACERT in New Hampshire and hopes New Hampshire can provide comparable programs that can not only address ACEs but also prevent them, particularly regarding the ongoing epidemic of addictive drugs such as opioids, spice and others.
“We need to shut the faucet off,” said Goonan in reference to the epidemic. “We can’t keep doing only what we’ve been doing.”
Following the discussion with Pappas, Quiroga and several other stakeholders in Manchester’s ACERT program, Goonan also gave Pappas an update on the Safe Stations program, an initiative pioneered by Manchester where fire departments provide immediate stigma-free walk-in support to anyone seeking assistance with mental health or drug-related issues.
Today, the Safe Stations program has spread across the country and the ACERT program intersects with Safe Stations with some situations involving children.
“Recognizing the intersection of what people are experiencing walking through the door here, knowing there are people back at home, especially kids, who are part of these households. They want to make sure they have a seat at the table too,” said Pappas. “It’s important to make sure we break down the silos in government and make sure everyone is participating. This is a problem bigger than any one component.”