West Virginia is in crisis. As the opioid epidemic grows, we are producing a generation of children impacted by addiction. In October of 2018, more than 6600 children were in the foster care system. And as of May 2018, 83% of open child abuse/neglect cases involved drugs.
“It doesn’t matter how much we’re doing to deal with adult addictions right now in our communities – and people are really coming together and funneling a lot of support to the adults – but if we don’t take care of what is happening to our children today, these are going to be tomorrow’s drug users,” said Laura Capage, the executive director of the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center.
Capage spoke during a late September public launch event for their new Drug Endangered Children Project. Capage said the child advocacy center workers are not addiction specialists, but they are learning quickly. And from their point of view, the best way to prevent today’s children from being tomorrow’s drug users is to treat the family as a unit.
“And so our hope is that when families get into the child welfare system, they immediately will enter the Drug Endangered Children’s Project if there is an addiction of substance issue,” she said.
At that point, families funneled into the project will participate in a comprehensive psychological evaluation to determine individual treatment needs in five areas: substance use, caregiver mental health, child mental health, parenting skills and caregiver-child relationship.
“The psychological evaluation becomes very critical because we need to make sure we’re doing the right kind of intervention,” Capage said.
After the evaluation, families are assigned a treatment team consisting of a licensed psychologist, family advocate, peer recovery coach and therapist. Depending on the family’s needs, the treatment team will address problem areas and adjust efforts as needed.
The hope is that by providing a multifaceted, family-centered approach to mental healthcare, caregivers struggling with addiction have the opportunity to move toward lasting change. And with the right support, they can again parent their children, keeping families together and preventing addiction from extending to the next generation.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.