While the Finance Committee was holding a hearing on opioids and heroin, two key senators, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), were introducing a bill to reauthorize the $20 million in funding for Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs) to address substance abuse.  The grants have been a part of the Promotion Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) block grant since 2006.

In announcing the bill, the Protecting Families Affected by Substance Abuse Act, the senators described the legislation

[would] “reauthorize for five years the Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs) that were created in 2006 under Grassley’s Finance Committee chairmanship and included as part of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act.”  The statement went on to say that “While the original intent of the 2006 grants was to address methamphetamine abuse, the scope expanded to other substances as new problems emerged.   Opioid addiction is a key focus of the new bill, as we have seen the havoc prescription painkillers and heroin continue to have on families and communities around the nation.”

In her testimony earlier in the day, Dr Nancy Young highlighted the RPGs indicating that of the original 53 grantees dating back to the 2006 start-up, 17,820 adults have been served along with 25,541 children encompassing 15,031 families.  Parents achieved timely access to treatment with over 36 percent entering treatment within 3 days and over 65 percent staying there for more than 90 days. Ninety-two percent of children who were in the custody of their parents or caregiver at the time of treatment while the parent was enrolled in the program remained at home during the treatment period.

The Grassley-McConnell bill is a significant statement in that the PSSF block grant and the related funding such as the partnership grants, court improvement funding, workforce development and the core services need to be reauthorized by the end of this fiscal year.

In regard to the substance abuse grants Grassley said, “Many of the kids in foster care are there because of substance abuse at home.  Families are torn apart because of substance abuse, and parents can benefit from services to get them off of drug abuse and back to caring for their children.  Children benefit from being reunited with their family members and learning how to break the cycle of addiction that can strike multiple generations of the same family.”

Senator McConnell said, “I applaud all that Kentucky’s child welfare and substance abuse officials are doing to help the children of families struggling with addiction.  We must do all we can to ensure children grow up in safe, stable, and loving families, which can often mean helping parents break the cycle of addiction that allows for the safe reunification of families, rather than forcing children into a costly foster care system.  That is just what this grant program aims to achieve.”

The court improvement funding which is part of the PSSF will be a challenge since a continuation of the approximate $30 million for the courts will require new funding according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Five years ago CBO had calculated the cost to maintain the funding at $10 million per year.  Instead of finding an offset, Congress cut into the core funding—family support, family preservation, reunification and adoption funding—as a way to continue court funding at the same level. A similar strategy this year would mean cutting those services by another $30 million per year.

If the Families First Act is adopted ……..{ See CWLA Children’s Monitor Newsletter E-mail for more Information}