Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic has significant impact and consequences on our children and families. Whether it is an infant born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), children in kinship care where parental drug use was a factor, or a pregnant woman suffering from opioid-use disorder (OUD), the experiences have lifelong impacts on families and children.
Impacts on Families
The opioid epidemic touches all genders, races, ages and locations across Pennsylvania. One such impact of the opioid epidemic is OUD present during pregnancy, which affects the the health of women and newborns alike. Understanding where women with OUD are delivering can help the state respond by improving screening of substance use during prenatal visits and connecting women to treatment. The Pennsylvania Perinatal Quality Collaborative is working to improve screening and connection to care. See the Getting People into Treatment section of the dashboard for more information on the commonwealth’s work expanding access to treatment.
Access to treatment is a vital part of the commonwealth’s response to the opioid epidemic. Of those women with OUD during pregnancy enrolled in Medicaid, a percentage of those women are receiving Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT can help these women enter and remain in recovery. This graph illustrates the percentage of women on Medical Assistance receiving MAT to treat OUD. More information is available by county and age for this population.
Impacts on Children
Supporting families facing addiction is a top priority for Governor Wolf. The Ready to Start Task Force has developed a number of priority findings in which the health of children can be improved. One area that health care providers across the state are focused on, and the state is working to assist them on, is babies born affected by substance use, withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which includes infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Plans of Safe Care are required by federal and state laws to be developed when an infant is born affected by substance use or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or FASD. A Plan of Safe Care is a service plan designed to support both the health and safety of the child as well as the health and substance use treatment needs of the parent/caregiver and family. These Plans are expected to be informed by cross-systems partners across health and social service agencies and through the meaningful engagement of the infant’s family. Plans of Safe Care are grounded in evidence‐informed practices, such as a preference that infants, mothers and families remain together whenever possible.
The graph to the right shows the rate of dependent children (less than 18 years old) removed from their home where parental substance use was a factor by federal fiscal year. Not all children with NAS are removed from the home. Children are only removed from their homes when there is an imminent risk to the child’s safety and well-being.
Children then placed in kinship care is a subset of all children removed from their home where parental substance use is a factor.
Kinship care refers to the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin). Relatives are the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their birth parents because it maintains the children's connections with their families.
More information is available by county for this population.
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Supported by the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Connecticut that supports projects to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality health care for everyone. The views presented here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Aetna Foundation, its directors, officers, or staff.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health conducted the analysis for the results presented in the Community Impacts section of the PA Opioid Dashboard.