New law aims to streamline how agencies help children of opioid-addicted parents

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new federal act will help streamline how agencies approach opioid addiction, and more specifically how groups ensure the safety of children whose parents are addicted.

Last month President Donald Trump signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act into law to help prevent opioid abuse. The legislation includes the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act. Trauma-informed is a model of care to treat families who have experienced a traumatic event. 

Cornerstones of Care in Kansas City currently uses the model. Therapist Whitney Gudgel said when parents are addicted to opioids, their children can suffer. She's seen children act out, stop studying and struggle to make friends.

When treating families in those circumstances, Gudgel accounts for the trauma addiction can cause. 

"That response then becomes very trauma-informed and focused, versus in the past we might have been more focused on what your problem is and how can I help you change that. We focus it with more of a broader lens," Gudgel explained. 

The new law will fund training, data collection, and information on best practices within the trauma-informed approach. Gudgel said spreading the model across therapeutic, medical, and other resources puts all disciplines on the same page to better treat patients. She's seen the approach succeed. 

"By helping others understand how that [trauma] impacts their world view and really enables them to gain a better footing in this world with their history. It doesn't have to make or break it," she pointed out. 

Cornerstones of Care said they treat opioid addiction in all corners of the Kansas City metro. Nationally, the percentage of children placed in foster care because their parents abused drugs jumped from 10 percent in 2000 to 31 percent in 2016.

"Our ultimate goal is to keep children safe, to keep families together, to keep them in the community, and continue them moving forward. The hope is this new legislation will enable us to have more of an opportunity to ensure their safety," Gudgel explained. 

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