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Congressional Briefing Addresses Substance Use Disorders in Child Welfare

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congressional Briefing Addresses Substance Use Disorders in Child Welfare

June 21, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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On June 6, 2013, First Focus, along with the National Council for Behavioral Health and 13 other organizations, cosponsored a congressional briefing on “Substance Use Disorders in Child Welfare: What Works for Children and Families.” The briefing educated congressional staff and other attendees on the latest treatment and program advances for substance use disorders that are helping parents recover and allowing children to succeed. The briefing was supported by: Senators Max Baucus (D-MT); Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Enzi (R-WY); along with Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH).

At the briefing, Dr. Nancy Young, Executive Director, Children and Family Futures, discussed the importance of focusing on the entire family when addressing alcohol and substance use among youth.  Dr. Young pointed out that growing up with parents with substance use disorders puts children at risk for substance use disorders, and children are at higher risk for developing a substance use disorder if they are victims of child abuse or neglect and also have a parent with a substance use disorder. Fully two-thirds of Child Protective Services cases are related to substance use; the majority of parents in the child welfare system with substance use disorders are victims of significant childhood trauma and are in need of intervention/treatment to address the past trauma, in addition to the substance use disorder. Dr. Young noted that by appropriately treating parents with substance use disorders, children can directly benefit.

Rob Morrison, Executive Director, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, discussed the huge treatment gap that exists for individuals with substance use disorders. One culprit behind this gap is that approximately 39% of individuals do not have the means to get treatment, which includes lack of insurance or money for copayments.  Mr. Morrison also discussed the need to address potential treatment obstacles across the board to allow for effective treatment, including the provision of family services and childcare services.

Additional panelists discussed prevention, treatment, improving outreach to children and families, birth and neo-natal supports for mothers and babies, and strategies for improving outcomes among children and adolescents involved in the child welfare system. Several shared their personal stories of child welfare involvement and substance abuse. The briefing was intended to spark a dialogue with Congressional members, national partners, and others about the need for public policy changes that support addiction services to treat and protect the entire family.