Early intervention, applications needed for kids and households to beat the consequences of the opioid disaster |
Early intervention and long-term programs are needed for families affected by opioid use disorder to succeed, a witness said Wednesday at the trial in which Huntington and Cabell Counties are demanding money from drug traffickers accused of fueling the opioid epidemic to have.
However, those vendors on trial said the necessary programs are already in place, funded by other sources such as federal and state governments, and not the responsibility of the municipalities, so the county and city are not theirs Can sue names for money.
Drug traffickers AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson are at the center of the Charleston trial after they were accused by Cabell County and Huntington of encouraging opioid abuse by shipping 127.9 million units of opiate doses to the county from 2006-2014, before users became illegal drugs, when the number of pills shipped fell.
Distributors counter that it was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and an increase in doctors prescribing opioids, combined with the poor health of West Virginians, that caused the epidemic.
Nancy Young, executive director of Children and Family Futures, a child abuse and neglect prevention group focused on rebuilding families affected by trauma, drug use and mental disorders, testified on Wednesday.
“All over the country, all the way to California, I knew what was going on in West Virginia before I was even asked to see Cabell and Huntington,” she testified.
She said they saw trends as early as 2010 that the child support system was negatively impacted by opioid use and was tasked with getting this under control.
West Virginia saw an increase from 970 children to 2,171 children removed for substance use by their parents from 2006 to 2016. From 2011-16, about 80% of those cases were filed for substance abuse, she said. The United States removes approximately 50,000 infants from their homes annually.
Around 2013 there was a switch from placing children with strangers to placing them with grandparents. Another trend is an increase in the number of orphans, a situation the country has not seen since the industrial revolution, Young said.
There is also a large turnover in child care workers because of compassionate fatigue, she said. Nationwide there is a vacancy rate of 29% within the child protection service. Region 2, which includes Cabell County, has 21 open positions, according to a session of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability earlier this month.
To change this, early interventions and long-term programs are needed to heal several generations of families.
She said the county and city need their own programs to alleviate the problem at the community level, but they need money to do that. She said grants were not sustainable or sufficient to run long-term programs that would contain the epidemic.
AmerisourceBergen attorney Gretchen Callas said such programs are available and funded by the federal government or school systems, not the county or the city. While Young said there was a lack of programs and funding, and many programs have waiting lists, she was unable to provide details because it was outside of her area of expertise.
The attorney said the federal government had increased its funding allocation for the treatment of opioid use disorders, specifically referring to the American Rescue Plan Act, which added $ 3 billion to recovery funds to help combat the surge in overdose during the COVID-19 pandemic .
“Federal government funding isn’t free,” said Young. “That’s paid for by West Virginia and the United States taxpayers.”
There are five populations that Young focused on to voice their opinion on: pregnant women with an opioid use disorder; Children affected by prenatal opioid exposure; Infants born with opioid exposure; Children involved in the child protection service system; and adolescents who have been exposed to an opioid use disorder.
When interviewed by HD attorney Linda Singer, Young said that children who live in homes where opioid use has occurred are likely to develop their own substance use because they haven’t fully developed their decision-making skills or impulse control. Because of this, children in these homes need to intervene before they adopt the habits.
The federal government funds programs for children up to the age of 5, but even in this small window, children are often put on the waiting list due to a lack of space.
Women living with an opioid use disorder also need early intervention, from pregnancy to postpartum support. The earlier intervention in pregnancy, the better outcome for the baby, she said.
Long-term post-pregnancy programs lasting at least one to two years have shown promising results for children. Young said there must be stability to ensure that the child is in a safe and stable household so that they have the best chance of life.
“If we wait for a special school recommendation and the child goes into third, fourth, or fifth grade, we have missed the opportunity to give the child a good life,” she said.
The number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome in West Virginia rose from 0.5 in 2000 to 33.4 in 2013. According to the State Department of Health and Human Resources, the 2017 incident rate was 50.6 per 1,000 births. The number of children who have been exposed to opioids prenatally is much higher, she said.
While children with neonatal abstinence syndrome are the most talked about in the media, there are hundreds of others born with opioid exposure – but who haven’t reached the threshold of neonatal abstinence syndrome – in need of help.
These children and their parents also need extended care, Young said.
“We all have a responsibility to these children to make sure they have the life chances of others,” she said.