The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to explore creating a dependency drug court to support, rather than punish, substance-addicted parents.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended designing what is also called a family treatment court, saying that nearly 60 percent of all cases opened by the county’s child welfare agency involve substance use.
“L.A. County is moving further away from old and punitive models as a response to parental substance use and toward holistic models that emphasize treatment, health and wellness to improve outcomes and family and community stability,” Solis said. “The overlapping issues of substance use and child welfare involvement disproportionately impact low-income families and families of color, and we are committing today to implement modern strategies to support these parents and their children.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion, said addiction is driving an increasing number of children into foster care nationwide.
“Some jurisdictions have begun `family treatment courts’ that help parents access treatment so that their children may remain safely in their parents’ homes,” Kuehl said. “This motion will explore whether that type of court would be a good option for L.A. County.”
These types of programs typically rely on coordination between child welfare agencies, substance abuse treatment providers and the courts to assess parents’ substance use and provide increased access to intensive treatment and case management.
Solis pointed to Sacramento County as a model. Parents in that county’s dependency drug court showed higher rates of participation in treatment. And children were reunified with their parents at a rate of 42 percent within two years, as compared with 27 percent for families without support.
Such programs can now leverage Medi-Cal benefits that now cover a broader range of treatment services for substance use disorders.
The board directed staffers from relevant departments to report back in 120 days with a plan based on best practices, including potential service providers and case management agencies.
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