On Tuesday, March 21, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a re-scheduled hearing on, Grandparents to the Rescue: Raising Grandchildren in the Opioid Crisis and Beyond. Committee Chairperson Susan Collins (R-ME) opened the hearing by pointing out that in her state of Maine nearly 1,000 or eight percent of all births – were born to women addicted to opioids and other drugs. She went on to say,
“This tragedy afflicts many others states as well as mine. In the United States, every twenty-five minutes, a baby is born with an opioid addiction.”
She then went on to make the connection to the hearing by saying that grandparents are coming to the rescue and that the Committee is meeting to recognize the grandparents raising grandchildren and what can be done to assist them as they take on this unanticipated challenge.
Ranking Member Robert Casey (D-PA), pointed out that in 2015, more than 3,200 people died in his state from drug overdoses which represented a 20 percent increase over the 2014 total. The majority are caused by opioids. He went on to say,
“The reality is that opioid addiction is devastating the lives of individuals with addiction. It is also putting a strain on health care services and law enforcement in communities across this country. It is also taking a toll on Families…one of the reasons why the number of children being raised by grandparents is on the rise. In Pennsylvania, 103,000 children are in the care of their grandparents or other relatives.”
Witness testimony included: Jaia Peterson Lent, Generations United, Megan L. Dolbin-MacNab, Virginia Tech University, Bette Hoxie, Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine and the Kinship Program, Sharon McDaniel, A Second Chance, Inc.
Senators took an intense interest in the topic and its impact within their states. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) referenced the more than $5 billion in treatment services that would be lost with a repeal of the ACA. Chairperson Collins highlighted the importance of grandparents providing care, pointing out that grandparents have always been there but now they were filling this unexpected need. She also discussed that the Committee will continue to examine ways they can strengthen programs that will help these grandparents. Ranking Member Casey also highlighted the need to carefully examine the decisions that Congress will be making in the coming weeks, including the way they deal with the ACA.