Tennessee creates program to help families affected by opioid addiction

Some Tennessee families will soon receive assistance to battle addiction and keep children out of foster care.

On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse announced a five-year, $3 million program designed to help families and children affected by opioids and other substance abuse by addressing addiction, improving permanency and enhancing the safety of children in affected households.

"When addiction hits a person, it impacts their whole family in ways that will be felt for years to come," Commissioner Marie Williams said in a news release. "We've seen time and time again that if a person can achieve recovery, they can unlock the door to being the parent they always wanted to be."

Funding for the program came via a regional partnership grant through the Federal Administration for Children and Families.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the U.S. opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

(READ MORE: Mental health crisis among children is a national emergency, experts say. Here's where to get help in Chattanooga.)

In Tennessee, there were 2,388 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, more than 4 million painkiller prescriptions in 2021 and 824 babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome in 2020, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The coverage area for the program will be nine counties in Middle Tennessee: Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Hickman, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marshall and Maury counties.

(READ MORE: New 988 hotline provides immediate help for mental health crises)

Families will be provided intensive, in-home crisis intervention and life skills education to help them fight addiction and create better home lives for children.

Because the services are coming to them, travel expenses and other barriers preventing families from receiving care should no longer be an issue, said Matthew Parriott, spokesman for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

(READ MORE: In mental health recovery, the best medicine is sometimes peer support)

"The desired outcome is to avoid out-of-home placement. At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing, to keep the family together because that's what's best for the kids," he said.

The department is also partnering with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, Department of Human Services, the Administrative Office of the Courts and Centerstone, a nonprofit organization providing crisis-intervention services.

Grant funding for the program runs through September 2027.

The department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse runs a similar program called Therapeutic Intervention, Education and Skills to assist children up to 18 years old at risk of being placed in foster care due to their caregiver's substance abuse.

Read more at TennesseeLookout.com.