Treatment pilot program shows improvements 5-years in, but dollars are biggest set back

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FRANKFORT – As Kentucky officials attempt to treat an expanding drug dependence problem in the commonwealth, programs tasked with tackling the issue are quickly reaching their fiscal limits.

The Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) program is serving approximately 300 families per year in Jefferson, Kenton, Boyd and Daviess counties with drug dependency issues by pairing parents and parents-to-be, who are in long term recovery, with specially trained social workers to help them kick their habit.

START, which began as a pilot program in 2007, is funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families matching and state general funds, federal grants, and Medicaid for Behavioral health.

The program provides a rapid timeline to engage families in service quickly and keep children out of foster care when safe and possible.

Tina Willauer, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Community Based services told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue Subcommittee on Human Resources says that the program has seen a number of success stories in the four counties that it currently serves.

“Our outcomes have showed us that our mothers have about doubled the sobriety rate”, of mothers who are not in START,” Willauer said. “And our children come into foster care at a much less rate. About half the rate ofDCBS children.”

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a pediatrician who works at St. Joseph Hospital in Fayette County, says that the program is needed in more Kentucky counties because the effects of babies born under the effects of drugs.

“About 8 percent of our deliveries are drug babies anymore which is a huge number,” Alvarado said. “Obviously I’d like to have this program in Fayette County because we struggle when we have these kids delivered.”

Ronda Maddox, a START family mentor in Jefferson County and a person in long term recovery has experienced what life is like with and without the program.

“You’re talking like 72 hours to get a person like me into treatment,” Maddox said. “Without the STARTprogram, it took me like 30 days.”

Funding continues to be a big issue with the program and is the key reason why it hasn’t expanded to other counties.

Willauer says that the program is really just scratching the surface in terms of serving families in need.

“In Jefferson County, for the first five years we learned that every family that we served, we had to turn away tow that had the exact same need,” Willauer said.

Statistics have shown START outcomes show:

  • Half the rates of entry into foster care
  • Double the sobriety rates for mothers
  • For every dollar spent on the program, roughly $2.50 offset in foster care expense.