The country’s opioid crisis has had a devastating effect on women, children, and families, and continues to strain state health, foster care, and social service agency budgets. A flurry of bills has recently been introduced in Congress to prevent or reduce the effects of the opioid crisis and many directly impact families and children.
The bills provide key insights into Congressional efforts to help states tackle the opioid crisis. In the past month, the House passed the omnibus SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act by a resounding vote of 396-14, and a number of other related bills have recently passed their committees. Additionally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. These bills support families and children affected by opioid use disorder (OUD) and are an early indication of what programs may win approval in the coming weeks. Two key approaches stand out:
- Promotion of innovative, family-centered care models that serve women and infants together; and
- A focus on data collection and research related to the needs and experiences of children and youth.
Innovative Care Models Promoted in the Proposed Legislation
Care delivery models that address the complex needs of families and children affected by opioid use are key to promoting recovery among parents and mitigating long-term impacts on children’s health.
The Senate’s Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 funds family-centered, residential treatment programs that serve women and infants together and provides grants and technical assistance to states to implement plans of safe care for substance-exposed infants.
- The bill also authorizes a program to support substance use disorder (SUD) prevention and recovery services for children, adolescents, and young adults, and requires the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify and disseminate best practices for serving this population in collaboration with the US Department of Education.
- Additionally, it provides demonstration grants to better integrate mental health care into schools — an important delivery site of care for children. By integrating mental health services into schools, states can promote access to services and support for children affected by trauma, including parental opioid use.
The House SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act would streamline services for pregnant and postpartum woman by enabling Medicaid financing of pregnancy-related services in SUD treatment facilities. It would also make it easier for Medicaid to finance community-based facilities where infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome could receive treatment along with their mothers. The bill also requires HHS to issue guidance and conduct studies to improve care for these populations.
Data collection and research into the opioid epidemic can shed light on the scope of the problem and opioid use trends, and they are critical for guiding policymaking and targeting effective interventions.
- The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act requires the Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use among individuals age 12 to 18. States can use this information to guide prevention efforts and target services and supports to address synthetic drug use and its impact on adolescents’ health.
- The Opioid Crisis Response Act supports data collection and research on prenatal substance misuse, including the long-term outcomes of children affected by neonatal abstinence syndrome. It also permits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect and report data on adverse childhood experiences. These data and research could inform state decisions about resource allocation for OUD prevention or treatment services for infants, children, and families.
Many of these and other bills have bipartisan support, but it remains to be seen if these or other bills will be enacted. The strategies proposed in these bills were also discussed at a recent meeting about SUD and families for state and local officials from Maine, Mississippi, and West Virginia hosted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), the National Association of County & City Health Officials, and the National Conference of State Legislatures as part of a cooperative agreement with the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Developing services for infants, children, and families is already underway in states, and new innovations and planning will begin if these bills become law. To learn more about how states are working to meet the needs of women, children, and families affected by SUD, attend the following sessions at NASHP’s Annual State Health Policy Conference, Aug. 15-18, 2018 in Jacksonville, FL:
- Turning the Tide: State Strategies to Meet the Needs of Families Affected by Substance Use Disorder, a day-long preconference on Aug. 15, 2018; and
- Staying Afloat: Keeping Moms Connected to Opioid and Substance Abuse Services 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018
Stay tuned for two upcoming NASHP issue briefs and national webinars exploring this issue, scheduled for late summer and early fall.