New Program Aims to Educate the Public, Providers on Link Between Opioid Crisis and Child Abuse

The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission announced a $243,050 grant to Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to prevent child maltreatment in homes with caregivers experiencing opioid use disorder. The grant was funded from the over $842 million awarded to Kentucky from settlements with pharmaceutical and other companies in 2022 for their role in exacerbating the deadly opioid crisis.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, or PCAK, is the state’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect before it ever occurs. The grant will fund a Child Maltreatment & Opioid Use Disorder Cohort, which will determine gaps in addressing the connections between opioid misuse and child maltreatment prevention. The cohort will be selected based on experience in the field of prevention, family engagement, recovery and lived expertise.

“The link between opioid use disorder and child abuse is an ever-present concern in the commonwealth,” said PCAK Executive Director Jill Seyfred. “PCAK is in a unique position to collaborate with our 272-member statewide partners to help service providers and the public better understand how opioid misuse among parents or caregivers impacts children and improve supports for families currently experiencing the effects of the opioid crisis.”

Substance use among caregivers in the home increases the likelihood of child maltreatment and is a risk factor for child abuse, neglect, near-fatalities and fatalities. In 2021, substance misuse was documented as a risk factor in 64% of Kentucky’s reports of child maltreatment with a finding of substantiated or services needed.

While the state has multiple resources and tools to assist those already experiencing opioid use disorder, there are not specific tools focused on both the prevention of opioid misuse and child abuse for the public, service providers and the press, said Seyfred.

As part of this work, PCAK will offer an opioid use disorder track at their 2024 Kids Are Worth It! Conference, the state’s largest child abuse and neglect prevention educational event. The opioid use disorder track will allow national experts in the field of substance misuse prevention to speak to statewide child welfare professionals, who will take what they learn back to their communities.

To increase public awareness around opioid misuse and child abuse, the grant will also support a virtual press room housed on PCAK’s website, giving the media access to footage, tools, stories and more to disseminate to their audience statewide.

All aspects of the program will be evaluated by the University of Louisville’s Center for Family & Community Well-Being.

The Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission was created in 2021 by House Bill 427. It comprises nine voting and two non-voting members and includes stakeholders from the prevention and treatment community, law enforcement and victims of the opioid crisis. The Commission’s purpose is to distribute Kentucky’s funds from settlements reached with opioid companies resulting from 4,000 claims from state and local governments across the country. PCAK was one of 24 organizations that received grants on Thursday.

“These 24 organizations will join us in keeping our promise to this state that we will be accessible, transparent and accountable for the results we will deliver in order to save the next generation that is growing up in the midst of this travesty,” said W. Bryan Hubbard, executive director of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission.