$3.9M project to aid youngest victims of substance abuse

Posted Nov. 12, 2012, at 6:15 p.m.

A $3.9 million project led by the University of Maine and a Bangor social services agency aims to improve the lives of children whose families are struggling with substance abuse.

The project, which will serve children 5 and younger in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, will receive about $800,000 a year over five years from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, according to a press release from UMaine. The project will be led by the Bangor-based agency Families And Children Together, the UMaine School of Social Work and a coalition of more than 25 community organizations.

The project “has the potential to strengthen the system of care for families affected by substance abuse, helping parents and caregivers access important resources and reducing the isolation and stigma often experienced by these families,” said Jennifer Middleton, a UMaine assistant professor of social work and the lead researcher on the project.

Maine has the highest opiate addiction rate per capita in the country, according to Middleton. That has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of babies born with exposure to drugs, from 165 babies affected statewide in 2005 to 667 in 2011, researchers said. Of those babies, 173 were exposed to opiates.

Under the project, a specially trained “navigator” will partner with families dealing with substance abuse issues. Services will include prenatal and parenting education, access to substance abuse screening and assistance with transportation.

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