Toward Improved Identification of Parental Substance Misuse: An Examination of Current Practices and Gaps in One US State.
Published on May 14, 2021in Maternal and Child Health Journal
· DOI :10.1007/S10995-021-03138-Y
INTRODUCTION The use of illicit substances, including opioids, is a serious public health issue in the United States. While there are reports of the impact of the ongoing opioid crisis on adults, a new focus has emerged on how parental substance misuse (PSM) affects children. This study explored existing screening and assessment practices and services for children and families affected by PSM across different service sectors in one state. The purpose of the study was to identify opportunities for training, policy development, and practice improvement related to identifying PSM and linking children and parents to services. METHODS Interviews (n = 15) with professionals from five service sectors (mental health, primary care, schools, community programs, and law enforcement) were used to inform development of a state-wide survey of the same groups (n = 498) to assess current practices, attitudes, knowledge, and training needs related to child screening of PSM. The survey was piloted using cognitive interviewing (n = 9) before it was distributed. RESULTS Fewer than 20% of survey respondents reported using standardized tools specific to screening PSM. Informal assessment practices predominate, though 60% of respondents saw value in adopting more standardized PSM screening. Attitudes about PSM and screening varied among sectors but interest in training was high. DISCUSSION Results indicate a need for more systematic PSM screening, cross-sector training and practice discussions, and policies to support early identification of children affected by PSM. Ramifications of these findings and recommendations are discussed.