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Congressman meets with child protection leaders to hear about opioid epidemic

Congressman meets with child protection leaders to hear about opioid epidemic

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-2nd) used the Congressional recess to meet yesterday with children services leadership in his district, which includes parts of Hamilton, Clermont, Brown, Adams, Highland, Pike and Scioto counties.

Rep. Wenstrup sits on the House Ways and Means subcommittee that has jurisdiction over child welfare issues, including the Family First Prevention Services Act.

His first stop was in Clermont County, where JFS Deputy Director Tim Dick introduced the Congressman to Judge James Shriver, who oversees the Family Dependency Treatment Court there. Court staff and clients who overcame addiction and retained custody of their children described the impact of the model program.

Dick spoke to the opportunities and challenges of Family First, which could require him to choose between continuing to pay for family programs that work, but solely with local funds, and identifying new evidence-based programs that may not exist widely in his area but which qualify for federal reimbursement.

Rep. Wensturp and his team then headed to Brown County JFS to have lunch and a roundtable discussion with agency leaders, including Director Mitch Sharp and Sheri Tabor of Brown County JFS, Director Katie Adams of Highland County JFS, Clinical Director Margie Weaver of Hamilton County JFS and Executive Director Lorra Fuller of Scioto County Children Services. The group had an opportunity to discuss challenges the agencies are currently facing in the wake of the opioid epidemic, workforce concerns, Ohio child welfare funding and opportunities for implementation of the Family First Act. Rep. Wenstrup was particularly interested in programs and services available to treat families’ many needs, including mental health services.

The final session of the day focused on the Ohio START Pilot Project and Brown County’s START program. Rep. Wenstrup met with Sharp, Tabor, Brown County Commissioner Barry Woodruff, START caseworker Ashley Roy, the agency’s two family peer mentors Lyndsey Graham and Jessica Knight, and Bridget Freisthler from the Ohio State University College of Social Work. The discussion focused on the START program’s wraparound response to the families’ trauma and parental substance use to help heal the family. The group also discussed the agency’s ability to quickly get parents into recovery programs due to their new relationship with treatment providers because of the START program. Much of the discussion focused on the family peer mentors’ role in the program and their ability to engage with and connect to parents to help them achieve recovery and maintain or regain custody of their children. Finally, Freisthler discussed evaluation of the program and possible alignment with the Family First Act.

Thanks to Kristi Craig of Casey Family Programs for arranging the visit. View photos from the visit on Facebook.