Giving Compass' Take:

• As many adults and parents struggle with opioid and other substance use disorders, health coverage has not expanded to help individuals access sufficient treatment and services. 

• How can medical professionals better screen parents for opioid and substance use disorders? Are there treatment centers in your community that have successful models for providing care for families struggling with opioid use?

Read about the opioid and prevention treatment strategies in rural Maine. 

More than half a million parents (623,000) with opioid use disorder (OUD) in the United States are living with their children younger than 18. But fewer than one in three of these parents have received treatment for substance use disorder (SUD).

An additional four million parents have a substance use disorder other than OUD, and these parents have even lower treatment rates. And estimates of prevalence based on survey data may be low, as a recent analysis showed that the actual prevalence of OUD in a population was about four times the rate estimated in survey data.

Findings from our recent study reveal the scope of the opioid crisis’s impact on parents and children and the persistence of problems with other substances. They also reveal the urgent need for health plans and payers to expand their engagement with those impacted by substance use disorder to deliver the services they need to recover and mitigate the adverse consequences on children and families.

Three strategies for payers to better connect parents to treatment: 

  1.  Better involve primary care and build new infrastructure for primary care providers to effectively address SUD. Ideally, primary care practices would play a critical role in addressing SUD issues among parents, including screening and diagnosing substance use disorders, motivating behavior change, and facilitating initiation of treatment.
  2. Focus on parents and children. Even though primary care spaces are starting to integrate mental health and SUD treatment and strategies are emerging, there is little apparent targeting of parents—not only parents with infants but also those trying to care for their young or adolescent children.
  3. Improve maternal screening and other strategies to improve holistic maternal health. Screening for OUD or SUD is a critical first step to referral and treatment. Medicaid can offer a cost-effective solution for screenings because Medicaid often covers both mother and child.

Read the full article about opioid use disorders by Victoria Lynch, Kim Joy Taylor, and Lisa Clemans-Cope at Urban Institute.