Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kentucky's decade-old program to help children who are at risk from drug-using adults is becoming a model for other states

Recovered opioid addict Raven Mosser credits her success in staying sober to Kentucky's START program. She moved to Ohio to become a recovery coach for other parents struggling with addiction. (Kaiser Health News photo by Sholten Singer)
Kentucky's program to help children placed at risk by adults' drug use has become a model for other states. Ohio's new plan is modeled explicitly on Kentucky's, and Indiana and North Carolina are launching initiatives too, Shefali Luthra reports for Kaiser Health News.

"Kentucky was a pioneer, starting in 2007, when opioid addiction first emerged as a public health concern. The program, called 'Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams' — or START — emphasizes a wraparound approach for at-risk parents that includes frequent home visits, vouchers for child care and transportation and mentorship from people in recovery," Luthra writes. "Under the Kentucky model, when child protection specialists learn a child is at risk, authorities specifically assess whether substance abuse could be a factor. If so, the parent is fast-tracked into treatment and assigned a 'recovery team,' which coordinates among agencies such as children’s aid, mental health, social services and recovery mentors."

One of the less-discussed effects of the opioid epidemic has been the strain it places on foster-care systems. Ohio, which has the nation's highest rate of heroin-overdose deaths, has been particularly hard hit. "Ohio's opioid epidemic is seen as the direct cause of an 11 percent increase in children in state custody over the past six years, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio," Dina Berliner reports for The Athens News.

Only 7,200 families are registered as foster parents in Ohio, but there are 15,000 children in the state's foster-care system, says state Attorney General Mike DeWine. And half of those kids are in foster care because one or both of their parents are opioid addicts, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Children Services Association.

It's a trend seen in other states. "Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that from October 2012 to September 2015, as addiction surged, the number of kids entering the foster system rose 8 percent," Luthra reports.

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