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Resource | Playbook

SAFE Community Family Outreach and Support Guide

At every step of a person’s life journey — beginning in elementary school and extending through the start of substance use and into recovery — there are valuable lessons learned associated with substance dependence. This line of effort describes how a community can support people along this journey.

The entire family — not just the person in addiction — feels the effects of substance use disorder. We recommend the following resources as examples of how your community can provide meaningful advice for family members who are coping with a loved one’s substance use disorder, treatment, transition, or recovery.

Ensure College Students in Recovery have Support through Collegiate Recovery Programs

For teens in recovery, the transition to college life may be particularly concerning — perhaps frightening — to them and to their parents. Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs) offer a connection to other students in recovery, as well as access to a supportive and confidential community. There are approximately 200 CRPs throughout the country that provide college students with the tools and support they need to succeed in the lifelong journey of recovery. Through our S.A.F.E. Campus program, we work to ensure that CRPs or other recovery support services are present on every college campus nationwide. S.A.F.E. Campuses promotes healthy living and empowers college students in recovery to be positive leaders on campus and in life. It also provides collegiate institutions with the knowledge and solutions necessary to effectively support students who are in or seeking recovery from substance use disorder.

Parents can educate themselves on why having a CRP on their child’s campus is important, even if they are not in recovery, by referencing “Why You Need to Ask if Your Kid’s College Has a Recovery Program (Even if They Don’t Use Drugs).” Communities, college counselors, and high schools can support teens and families by connecting them with colleges offering CRPs.

The Association of Recovery in Higher Education (ARHE) prepared a list of questions parents interested in CRPs should ask. Students in recovery who want to make a difference can apply to be a part of the Collegiate Recovery Leadership Academy, a partnership between S.A.F.E. and the ARHE. Selected students strengthen efforts on their campuses, plus develop and implement projects with the guidance of mentors.

Engage Faith-Based Communities to Increase Your Community’s Reach

Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith groups can be a valuable bridge to the community when discussing the opioid epidemic. Faith-based organizations have a vested interest in their congregations and communities, and they can often reach people who may be reluctant to share information with anyone but their religious leaders. Houses of worship are generally open to sharing their spaces, whether it’s hosting a recovery group or a 12-step program. Community leaders may find faith-based communities open to hosting a town hall to help educate their own members on the science of addiction, medication-assisted treatment, or naloxone training. Faith-based leaders also have a weekly audience where they can grow compassion within the community, while also supporting families in recovery. Recognizing the importance of the faith-based community, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, created a Faith-based Outreach Committee. Officials contracted with five faith-based programs to participate in the Faith-Based Outreach Initiatives Program. They also outline how congregations can increase awareness, educate, and incorporate spirituality. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a dedicated Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, with an accessible online toolkit containing ideas to help engage your spiritual community, educate and build community capacity, and respond to the opioid health crisis.

Innovate a Support System for Grandfamilies to Thrive

One tragic consequence of the opioid epidemic is the marked increase in children living with their grandparents. Grandfamilies have unique challenges that may not fit neatly into family programs in a given community. Those who have taken in grandchildren after losing their sons or daughters to overdoses may struggle with shame and grief. Those same grandparents may be retired, on a fixed income, or living below the poverty line. Communities can offer updated parenting skills classes, specialized support groups, help navigating the school system, plus community resources. Generations United is an advocate for intergenerational families and has been at the forefront of the issues facing grandfamilies affected by the opioid epidemic. Its full report, “Raising the Children of the Opioid Epidemic,” outlines key findings, including that children who are removed from their parents’ care by the child welfare system because of substance use and put in foster care are now more likely to be placed with relatives than non- relatives. It also outlines solutions and supports needed for these families. West Virginia State University created an initiative, Healthy Grandfamilies, to support grandparents now raising
a family for the second time. The program provides everything a “new” parent needs to learn again: nutrition, social media and teens, stress management, and the new “normal” for their family. After completing the series, a licensed clinical social worker consults with them for three months to navigate community and advocacy services.

Develop Parent Coaching Programs

Many parents feel lost when navigating their child’s substance use issues. By speaking with someone who has been there, parents can learn how to stay connected to their loved one and get the support and encouragement they need and deserve. Communities can directly help parents by creating peer-to-peer programs such as the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Parent Coaching program. This model pairs parents seeking help and with a specially trained
parent volunteer who has traveled the same path, dealing with a child’s substance use. Parent Coaching includes the benefits of shared experience and evidence-based techniques centered on motivating change. Consider building a community parent coaching program for families in crisis. CMC Foundation for Change can train communities and local governments that provide support to families facing problems associated with substance use.

Create a Family-Friendly Guide from Treatment to Recovery

Families affected by addiction need help navigating the disease and the systems set up to assist those looking for help. Friends of Recovery New York, with support from the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, created the “Family to Family Recovery Resource Guide,” a comprehensive tool to assist and support families as they navigate their way from active addiction to recovery. It is an easy-to-follow guide that provides an extensive array of content, walking families through every step of the recovery process. Its family-friendly format includes a variety of topics, including what substance use disorder looks like in a loved one and where to find support/help for ourselves and for loved ones. In the online version, you can link directly to videos that tie to the content. This is a good foundation for any community or organization wishing to create comprehensive resources for families trying to navigate the system.

Provide Peer Navigators to Connect Families to Resources

Kinship Navigator programs provide critical information and referral services to grandparents and other relatives raising children who are outside the child welfare system. Without these family members, many of the children would likely wind up in the foster care system. This fall, the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced nearly $18 million in federal grants to states for Kinship Navigator programs, which will expand the 70 programs already in place. One example is Arizona Kinship Support Services, which provides help in a variety of ways, from completing guardianship packets and benefit applications to assisting families who wish to become guardians or adoptive parents. Family testimonials offer compelling reasons to start a similar program. New York state funds regional Family Support Navigators to provide help throughout the recovery process and connect families to vital resources. It is also a model of how other states or communities can directly support families with a loved one with substance use disorder, helping those families navigate their loved one into treatment.

Educate Your Community about the Impact on Children

The opioid crisis has significant and multifaceted impacts on child and family health and well- being. As families affected by parental substance use around the country face child welfare involvement, it is more important than ever to support family-centered treatment-focused approaches, from supporting children in foster care to aiding children with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Your community can engage clinics, pediatricians, schools, and child care providers with the help of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ fact sheets on how children are affected by the opioid crisis in each state. These fact sheets synthesize national and state data related to the opioid crisis, child welfare systems, Medicaid, and child health. Each sheet includes a
state-by-state breakdown on the opioid epidemic, child welfare systems, and child health. These fact sheets also offer policy solutions that can support vulnerable children and families at the state and federal levels. Use these fact sheets to raise public awareness.

Train Your Community on How to Spot an Opioid Overdose

Making sure community members are educated on how naloxone can save the life of someone suffering from an overdose is key to stemming the rise in overdose rates. Communities can create a flier to teach how to recognize the signs of opioid overdose, whom to call for help, and where to get naloxone training, as well as a contact number to call if they know someone who needs help with addiction. Alexandria, Virginia, created this flier with clear instructions on how to recognize an overdose. The reverse side details what the city is doing to respond to the crisis in its community. Communities can easily adapt this flier with their own information or translate it into Spanish or other prominent languages used within their communities.

Teach Your Community How to Find Quality Treatment

Finding treatment for a drug or alcohol problem is not a quick or easy process and can be overwhelming. This comprehensive, step-by-step guide will help your community members identify effective addiction treatment options and answer questions they may have along the journey. The guide helps assess the need for treatment and offers considerations for finding a quality treatment provider. The steps and guidance outlined in this guide are applicable to a range of communities and help demystify the process of finding treatment options.