Several southern and central Ohio counties stand to benefit from a new $3.5 million pilot program established by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The program is designed to serve families harmed by parental opioid abuse in more than a dozen southern Ohio counties, including Pike, Jackson, Athens, Clermont, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Perry, Pickaway, Hocking, Ross and Vinton.
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 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,” DeWine said. “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.
Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis recently called the media’s attention to the problem that exists in Scioto County.
“It’s going to bankrupt counties if we don’t figure out a way to turn the tide on crime,” Davis said. ” It’s getting worse and the tentacles that the drug epidemic has and the costs and effects from it are ever increasing and we’re feeling more and more pressure in regards to this.”
Scioto County was conspicuous by its absence from the grants to be awarded in the pilot program and the Daily Times inquired of Dr. Laura Fuller, director of Scioto County Children Services, as to whether her agency had applied for the grant or not.
“We did not actually apply for those funds,” Fuller said. “We were included in the initial pilot, but we did not apply.”
Fuller elaborated on the reason – “The reason we did not apply, simply is because right now, due to our own funding constraints, our staffing constraints – we have the highest number of kids in custody that we have ever had. We have over 200 kids in care, and essentially this money that was coming down would not have been anything that would have allowed us to add staff or to provide more services, through our program.”
Fuller said the grant would have been money that would have most likely been funneled through the Child Protection out to a treatment provider.
“Right now we’re just not in a position to do that,” Fuller said. “But we’re hoping that when the second round comes out, which should be the fall of this year, that we will be in a better position, staff wise and financially at Children Services, that we would be able to apply then.”
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. The $3,535,250 in VOCA grants allotted to this program are being awarded as part of the “Ohio Attorney General’s Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative,” which was created in 2015 to determine how VOCA funds, which come from federal settlements, fines, and fees, could best be spent to serve victims of crime in Ohio.
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.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.