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College of Social Work Partners with Ohio Attorney General’s Office on Pilot for Families Harmed by Parental Opioid Abuse

The Ohio State University College of Social Work is pleased to announce its new partnership with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office in the creation and funding of a new pilot program that will help families harmed by parental opioid abuse.

Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) is an intervention program that will provide specialized victim services, such as intensive trauma counseling, to children who have suffered victimization due to parental drug use. The program, to be initiated in 14 Ohio counties, will also provide drug treatment for parents of children referred to the program.

College of Social Work’s Drs. Bridget Freisthler, Katie Maguire-Jack, Alicia Bunger and Susan Yoon will be directly involved in evaluating the effectiveness of Ohio START.

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. Ohio START will bring together child protective services, peer mentors, the courts, and behavioral health and treatment providers to work closely with families whose children have been abused or neglected due to parental addiction in Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross and Vinton counties.

Child welfare workers will partner with a certified peer mentor to meet with each family once a week to ensure the safety of the child and provide support to parents. If a child can safely stay in the home during this process, the child can do so with the oversight of caseworkers. Otherwise, kids will have regular visitation with their parents as they undergo drug treatment, which will be paid for by Medicaid or private insurance. Family reunification will occur after parents have a minimum of six months of documented sobriety.

As part of their evaluation, College of Social Work faculty will examine what elements of the Ohio START pilot are most successful in parents regaining sobriety, maintaining treatment, and reducing future recurrence of child abuse or neglect. Unique to this initiative is a particular focus on improving the well-being of the children affected by parental opioid use. Expected results are the availability of more substance abuse-related services and resources for families in the child welfare system.

“We are very excited to be collaborating with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office on this important project,” says Professor Bridget Freisthler. “The opioid crisis has been especially harmful to families and young children, yet few counties have the resources to provide additional interventions and services to this vulnerable population. By funding this project, the Attorney General’s Office recognizes that the youngest victims of this epidemic need additional support to enhance their safety and well-being.”

The program will primarily be funded through a $3.5 million Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office which will be shared among the counties over two and a half years. 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.

Casey Family Programs, which partnered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to develop the Ohio START program, is providing an additional $75,000 for the pilot program. Both grants will be administered by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

For more information about the pilot, contact Professor Bridget Freisthler at Freisthler.19@osu.edu.

For media inquiries, contact Frankie Jones-Harris, Communications Director at the College of Social Work, at 614-330-2206 or Jones-Harris.1@osu.edu.

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Ohio Attorney General Press Release

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