Governor Steve Beshear has announced a $2.5 million grant to help families dealing with both child neglect/abuse and substance use disorders in Daviess County.
The funding is a 5-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth and Families Office to the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS). The funding will support the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) program in Daviess County.
"This much-needed investment will help break the patterns of substance abuse and child abuse within families in western Kentucky," Gov. Beshear said. "With START's state-led partnerships building across the state, we are confronting the problem of substance abuse and its lifelong effect on children."
START was formed by statewide child protection services partnerships aimed at helping families at risk of child removal because of substance abuse disorders. The program is directed at assisting parents in overcoming their addictions and building healthier families.
The Daviess County project is the fifth location for the START concept in Kentucky, following Jefferson, Kenton, Boyd and Martin counties, where START programs began in 2006 with help from DCBS, part of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).
In Daviess County, the funding is expected to support comprehensive services to address substance use disorders and other behavioral health issues for 130 families over the next 5 years.
CHFS Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said the investment will have a positive impact on families for generations.
"We must change the culture of addiction that affects too many mothers and fathers in the Commonwealth," she said. "Getting more parents on the right track to sobriety will help their children grow up in safe and loving homes."
Eighty percent of Kentucky's foster children have parents with substance abuse that is a risk to child safety, Haynes said.
START goals in Daviess County include keeping children safe in permanent homes including with their parents whenever possible and nurturing their well-being; promoting sobriety, recovery and parental capacity among substance-abusing parents; and improving access to drug treatment, raising treatment completion rates and boosting parenting skills.
"This is great news for our community, and I am positive that this funding will make a true difference in the lives of those families struggling with issues tied to substance abuse or child abuse and neglect," said Rep. Tommy Thompson, of Owensboro. "It also means a lot that Daviess County is one of the first counties in the state to benefit from this program and the first in western Kentucky. We can play a leading role in showing other communities how to implement the lessons we learn."
The program will also provide wraparound supports to overcome families' obstacles to recovery. Family mentors, with at least 3 years of sustained sobriety and familiarity with child protective services, are fundamental to the programs' success. Family mentors work in the team with CPS workers and engage the parent in substance abuse treatment services and recovery supports.
"The substance abuse funding will be very helpful to the citizens of Owensboro," said Rep. Jim Glenn, of Owensboro.
Selection criteria for families will include a substantiated child protective services report with parental substance abuse and at least one child age 5 or younger in the family. In 2011, 85 Daviess County families met the selection criteria.
"Kentucky children and our families are an invaluable, precious resource, and I am so pleased that Daviess County is the latest recipient of START program funding," said Sen. Joe Bowen, of Owensboro. "For the next 5 years, families in and around Owensboro will have the resources and tools they need through this program funding to address substance abuse and child abuse. Safe homes for our children must be a priority, and this grant will provide for a long-lasting, positive impact on our community."
Daviess County was selected because of the strong partnership between the DCBS regional office and River Valley Behavioral Health, the area's mental health care provider, as well as the community's strong recovery support system and Model Court system that is designed to test new practices.
The START program in Kentucky is only the second program of its kind in the country, patterned after the nationally recognized Cleveland START program launched 15 years ago in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
A key coordinator of the Cleveland program, Tina Willauer, has led Kentucky's START teams for 6 years through the DCBS office.
Willauer said a study of the Kentucky program, published in a peer-reviewed journal, has shown promising results.
Compared to groups not served by START, mothers in the program achieved sobriety at nearly twice the rate of typical treatment available.
Although the families served were in the top 10 percent of all cases on high risks to child safety, children were placed in state custody at half the rate of a matched control group.
The evaluation also found that for every dollar spent on START, the state avoided more than $2 in out-of-home care costs.
"These results support START as an effective integrated program," Willauer said.
Willauer said that Kentucky received its latest grant partly because of the great work being done in START's original four counties and that other states are interested in Kentucky's success.
"Families with substance-abusing parents have complex and pervasive needs," she said. "Through START, we can comprehensively address those needs and get them on the road to recovery. Kentucky is on our way to becoming a leading example of evidence-based child welfare services," Willauer said.
Two Rivers Service Region Administrator Joey Minor, whose region includes Daviess County, said START strengthens community partnerships and enhances targeted services for DCBS clients.
"The START program fills a great need for this area," Minor said. "Too many Daviess County families whose children are removed from home sadly return to the system after their initial removal because of limited treatment options. START strengthens community partnerships and enhances targeted services for clients. By targeting the disease of addiction and ensuring the children are living safely, we can strengthen the parents' ability to care for their children and live in self-sufficiency."
Minor said his staff is committed to the START program and supporting parents as they face the barriers stemming from substance abuse.
Daviess County Chief District Judge Lisa P. Jones said she's proud her area has become part of a program that has proven to be successful in Kentucky.
"Family preservation is the ultimate goal of the courts, when it can be done safely," Jones said. "START can help us accomplish this. The START program provides improved access to treatment and thorough continuity of care for families. With all stakeholders working closely together to support addicted parents, we can eliminate the barriers that keep them from living a healthy life and caring for children."
Willauer said a grant-funded START treatment manual is under development, which will help other states implement START strategies.
Feedback from customers and collaborators has been extremely positive, Willauer said.
In her evaluation, one mother who successfully completed the program said: "I really liked the idea of have recovering addicts to help. Mentors know what it is like and make child protective services more personal and credible; we have a better chance to make it with someone we can identify with.
"I spoke to counselors saying that I was going to get and stay clean and sober and not go back to prison, but I didn't know how. With this child, I knew that I do not want her to call anyone else ‘mommy;' I knew that I wanted to get it right. So, I asked for help, utilized the tools and group time, took feedback and suggestions. Although I felt like using during the process, my main motivation was to keep my child."
This mother achieved sobriety, went back to school and is raising her daughter, according to Willauer.
Recruitment and training of START team members for Daviess County has begun, and treatment of families will begin in early spring.
DCBS will conduct START in partnership with CHFS' Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, River Valley Behavioral Healthcare, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Louisville.
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