System Improvement Updates

The Effects of Substance Use on Maine Children and Families

A new report prepared by the Department's Office of Child and Family Services provides data and insight into the role of substance use disorder in Maine's child welfare system. Breaking down county-level trends for State Fiscal Year 2019, it provides a snapshot into the effects of substance use on Maine children and families.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Mills Administration have implemented several initiatives to address the effects of substance use on child safety. In September 2019, DHHS announced efforts to help new parents protect their infants from the effects of substance use and expand collaboration with school-based health centers and resiliency programs to address opioid risks among older children and teens. The plan invests nearly $2 million over two years from the $5.5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine set aside for opioid response in Governor Mills' budget. Responding to the opioid crisis by preventing overdose deaths, increasing treatment and recovery efforts, and bolstering prevention is a central focus of the Mills Administration.

DHHS, as part of contributing to an Opioid Response Strategic Action Plan that looks at substance use across the lifespan, is working to ensure that screening, treatment and support for recovery is available to Maine families. The Department's Maternal Substance Use Disorder and Substance-Exposed Infant Task Force and Opioid Coordinating Council are providing leadership and coordination across departments. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is promoting evidence-based approaches to treating substance-affected infants and has expanded the availability of Public Health Nurses to all mothers from the prenatal period through the first year. OCFS is promoting evidence-based parenting skills and education and developing education and training opportunities on substance use disorder for child care providers. For families, the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services offers three treatment programs, four case management programs, and one parent coaching program.

Additionally, in response to infant deaths relating to unsafe sleep practices, DHHS launched a statewide campaign called Safe Sleep for ME. The campaign provides information on safe sleeping practices for babies to new parents, pregnant women, and others who care for children younger than 1 year old. Advertising on digital, social media, television, and radio platforms promoted the A, B, C's of Safe Sleep:

  1. ALONE in a crib
  2. On their BACK for nights and naps
  3. Placed in a clean, clear CRIB
  4. Cared for in a Drug-Free Home - by aware, not impaired, caregivers

The Department's Safe Sleep initiative also includes working with hospitals to help them become safe sleep certified, and with Public Health Nurses, Maine Families Home Visiting staff, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) staff, and OCFS caseworkers and other social service agencies to ensure safe sleep education is provided to families with a new baby.