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Peer support shows promise in Trumbull County

Children Services aids families affected by substance use

WARREN — Two new programs targeted at families with children and substance-use issues are showing signs of success in Trumbull County.

Trumbull County Children Services was given $120,000 from the Ohio START program — a state program initialized by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, and $210,000 from a program known as T-SUDE, a substance-use disorder program funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Both are intervention programs targeted at families affected by substance-use issues in the county children services programs, and both use a new approach to helping the families keep children in a safe home environment — peer support programs.

“Peer support is a core component of both programs. What makes them different are the two populations served. T-SUDE helps families identified in the federal CARES legislation, families affected by substance use with children under the age of 1. While Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma) is for families with children older than 1,” said Rick Tvaroch, quality assurance administrator for Trumbull County Children Services.

Ohio START also utilizes intensive trauma counseling FOR children and families, and is set to begin in Mahoning County in 2020.

Family peer mentors — people who have been through substance-use issues and are in a period of continued recovery — are paired with families and conduct more intensive care visits with families with substance-use disorders than families in the typical child protection system. The voluntary programs also work with the Trumbull County Family Dependency Treatment Court, offered through the Trumbull County Family Court.

“With intensive case management services, families are getting four times the contact; it is much more intensive than the traditional model. And it is doing well,” Tvaroch said.

The funds from the grants mostly pay for the extra staff, case workers and recovery coaches.

“We aren’t making money on this; 90 percent of the funds pay for peer support staff,” Tvaroch said.

There are seven or eight families in both programs.

“The idea for both programs is to have a capped case load so we can gradually build intensive services with weekly contact,” Tvaroch said.

About 56 percent of referrals to Trumbull County Children Services are connected to substance use, said Timothy Schaffner, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services.

“We’ve wanted more peer support for a few years now. We know folks addicted respond best when they work with other people who have lived the experience,” Schaffner said.

The agency had a part-time consultant to call in on cases, but there wasn’t enough time to become embedded in the process, Schaffner said.

“Now, with specialized recovery programming, there has been an impact on our culture. We now have moms sitting with us every day that lost their children for some time due to a past addiction, but are now in recovery and went through the program to get their kids back. They now have training and certifications in peer support and can better guide others in a similar situation,” Schaffner said.

Of the communities selected for the grant programs, Trumbull County is one of only three that decided to hire the mentors directly instead of going through a contract, and that means the new employees can convey their knowledge more easily to other staff, Schaffner said.

Schaffner said that fits into the agency’s overall goal of creating a community mental health center, by increasing the services offered by the clinical department — adding to counseling and case management staff focusing on kids who need help. The agency is the only one in the state certified as a mental health service provider.

This model of treatment has worked in other places where it was utilized, and the results are looking good for Trumbull County, Tvaroch said.

“Ohio adopted this Ohio START model because it was already established with empirical data to work. Look in Kentucky: It leads to quicker and sustained sobriety, better child outcomes, safer homes and enables children to stay with their families. It is a service model that has been proven to work,” Tvaroch said. “Peer support mentos can be transformative and engage people on a deeper level.”

The community partners working with the agency on the program have made the program work smoothly.

“We are proud of our partnerships. We can’t do this alone,” Tvaroch said.

The Ohio START program is primarily funded through a Victims of Crime Act grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and a State Opioid Response grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, which are shared among the counties over two and a half years.

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