After the Tuesday evening dinner with Commissioner Lopez and reporter Christopher Walker, on Wednesday, April 20, CWLA members wrapped-up with a morning session focused on the substance use issue.

With Congress continuing its focus on the prescription drug and opioids addiction issue (see following story) and a number of bills introduced in various committees including Senate Finance, HELP and Appropriations Committees and with the increasing evidence that it is having an impact on child welfare agencies across the country, CWLA heard from several panelists on the topic.

Presentations including comments and a power point presentation by Robert Morrison, Executive Director, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, providing an overview from the state directors viewpoint on substance use disorders and prevalence data demonstrating the rise in use of opioids, including prescription drugs and heroin, and the overall challenge of addiction including alcohol.

Nancy Young, Ph.D., Executive Director, Children and Family Futures, focused attention on the impact of substance use disorders, including the increase in use of opioids, on infants, children and families. Dr. Young highlighted both the national impact of substance abuse and the federal investments over the past decade that have tested strategies to improve outcomes for families in child welfare affected by substance use disorders. These investments, such as the Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs) and Children Affected by Methamphetamine grants, have generated a knowledge base of what works and point to a set of common ingredients for improved family outcomes.

The two more global perspectives on what is happening across the fifty states was followed up with a more local and personal viewpoint.

Jocelyn Gainers, Executive Director, Family Recovery Program, Inc, Baltimore, Maryland highlighted the Baltimore program.  It is a family drug court program that connects families with timely access to substance abuse treatment and supportive services for parents and families who have lost custody of their children do to substance use disorders. Ms. Gainers discussed the program’s use of recovery support specialists to engage parents into treatment and other services.

After a comprehensive description and discussion of how that Baltimore program works, she was followed by one of her employees, Lukenia Lisa Carroll.  Lisa is a Case Manager for the Family Recovery Program but she also used her presentation to reflect on her personal experience.  Her three children were removed from her care in 2008 due to substance abuse. Ms. Carroll graduated from the Family Recovery Program in 2009 and she reunified with her three children. She shared her story and offer a parent’s perspective on what works in serving families affected by substance use disorders.

Those presentations were wrapped up by a closing discussion that involved Capitol Hill reactions by a cross-section of Hill staffers including comments from Allie Kimmel, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)-Senate HELP Committee, Ryan Martin, Republican Majority Staff-House Subcommittee on Ways and Means, Jill Hunter-Williams, Congressman Danny Davis, (D-IL)-Human Resources Subcommittee, Alex Payne, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA)-House Education and the Workforce.

CWLA members and panelists engaged in an extensive discussion of the issues, the problems and the possible next steps.