Senate package includes three bills that address opioid crisis within child welfare


On May 23, 2018, the Senate Finance Committee announced a package of 22 bills aimed to address the ongoing opioid crisis our country is facing. There are three bills that deal specifically with child welfare funding in response to the crisis: the Supporting Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act, the Improving Recovery and Reunifying Families Act, and the Building Capacity for Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act.

All three bills attempt to build upon the portion of the Families First Prevention Services Act that would allow states to use funds from Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to provide up to 12 months of substance abuse prevention and treatment services for parents of children who are candidates for foster care.

The Supporting Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act (SB 2924) was developed to encourage the use of family-focused residential treatment programs for substance use disorder treatment. The bill would require the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and issue guidance to the states on how to do so. The guidance will include what the existing treatment programs and resources under the Medicaid program are, as well as how states can use funding provided under Medicaid and Title IV-E to provide treatment programs at a family-based facility and foster care maintenance payments for a child with a parent who is receiving treatment in one of such facilities.

The Improving Recovery and Reunifying Families Act (SB 2926) would require the secretary of HHS to conduct a family recovery and reunification program replication project to help reunify families and protect children with a parent/guardian with a substance abuse disorder. The bill would provide $15 million (available from FY19-FY23) to allow HHS to replicate effective reunification programs, as well as determine which programs would be appropriate to use at various intervention points in the recovery process. The reunification services the bill focuses on are ones involving recovery coaching.

The Building Capacity for Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act (SB 2923) would provide support for the development of evidence-based family-focused residential treatment programs by allocating $20 million over the course of five years (available from FY19-FY23). The secretary of HHS would grant awards to eligible groups (governmental child welfare agency, private nonprofit organization, research organization, treatment service provider, higher education institution) to develop, enhance, or evaluate treatment programs.

The opioid crisis has had a tremendous impact on child welfare, placing an additional stressor on the already strained system. There is a striking connection between opioid abuse and child welfare caseloads, and one of the most consistent reasons a child is removed from their home is due to parental alcohol or other drug abuse. In addition to a longer recovery period and higher chances of relapse, parental opioid addiction often results in the termination of parental rights or, even worse, the death of a parent. 

It is hoped that these Senate bills will begin to address the crisis we are facing and provide some much-needed guidance and funding to reunify families and help parents recover.