Ohio’s Attorney General has launched a pilot program designed to help families harmed by parental opioid abuse.

On Thursday March, 23 Attorney General Mike Dewine announced the creation of the new program that will serve families harmed by parental opioid abuse in more than a dozen southern Ohio counties.

The state of Ohio currently is ranked number one in the country in terms of the number of opioid overdose related deaths.

Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) is an intervention program that will offer specialized victim services to children who have suffered victimization due to parental drug use.

Specialized services will include things like intensive trauma counseling.

The program will also provide drug treatment for parents of children referred to the program.

“Children with a parent or parents addicted to drugs tend to stay in foster care longer, and they enter foster care having experienced significant trauma. While mom and dad are high, these kids may go days without food or supervision.  They may have witnessed a parent inject drugs, overdose, or even die,” said Attorney General DeWine.  “By creating this program, we hope to help these 14 counties give the silent victims of the opioid epidemic – the children – the best care possible, while also helping their parents recover from their addiction.”

According to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, 50 percent of children placed in foster care in 2015 were placed due to abuse and neglect associated with parental drug use.

Dewine explained that Ohio START will bring together child protective services, peer mentors, the courts and behavioral health and treatment providers. The different groups will work closely with families whose children have been abused or neglected due to parental addiction.

Funding will come from a $3.5 million Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The money will be shared among Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross and Vinton and counties as part of the pilot program.

Casey Family Programs partnered in the development of the Ohio START program and is providing an additional $75,000 to the pilot program.

According to the press release issued by the Attorney General’s Office: “These grant funds will be specifically spent to help county child welfare agencies identify children who have been victimized due to parental drug use and provide them with specialized treatment for any resulting behavioral or emotional trauma. The grant will also fund victim services for parents with underlying victimization that may be contributing to their addiction.”

Ohio START was inspired by a similar program in Kentucky that resulted in about half as many children returning to foster care due to parental addiction. Parents involved in the Kentucky program were also found to have twice the sobriety rate. 

Ohio State University’s College of Social Work and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University will study the effectiveness of the program over the next two and a half years. If the program is found to be a success, it may expand to other counties. 

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