AG’s START Family Recovery, Intervention Program Expands to 34 Counties

November 8, 2018


Story published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2018 Hannah News Service, Inc.


Columbus, Oh - Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma (START) Program for families battling substance abuse is expanding to more than a third of Ohio, even as some areas of the state hardest hit by the opioid epidemic have dropped out of the adult recovery and child intervention initiative.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday that START, which launched as a pilot project in March 2017, will combine $3 million from the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) with federal State Opioid Response (SOR) funding from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) approved this week by the state Controlling Board to add 17 counties to the program, for a total of 34 counties representing all regions of the state. (See The Hannah Report, 3/22/17, 10/29/18.)

“The focused, individualized support families in the Ohio START program receive can truly make a difference, and I am pleased that even more counties will start offering this program,” DeWine said in a statement. “The dedication of the case workers, family peer mentors and others has supported parents struggling with addiction and helped keep families together. I look forward to following the success of more families as the Ohio START model is implemented in more communities across the state.”

Administered by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), START unites children’s services, juvenile courts, behavioral health providers and peer mentors to support families struggling with co-occurring substance abuse and child maltreatment. Children receive intensive trauma counseling, while parents pair with a recovery coach. Mentors have personal experience with addiction, have achieved sustained recovery, and have previous experience with the child welfare system as a child or a parent.

“Investing in prevention and addressing the impacts of addiction on families is an important step on our road to defeating the opioid epidemic in Ohio,” said OhioMHAS Director Mark Hurst. “The Ohio START program provides families struggling with addiction and mental illness an opportunity to remain intact, and to move forward in a way that is healthy and recovery-focused. The use of peers in this model is especially important and is something that echoes the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ commitment to expanding access to peer services across the state.”

Program Director Fawn Gadel noted, “Ohio START is an innovative children services-led program that has given our pilot agencies the ability to partner with other local agencies and connect with the families we serve in a meaningful way, allowing the family to heal from their trauma and provide safe and stable homes for their children. This year, we are very excited to double the number of counties participating in the pilot, so we can reach twice as many families and children.”

START originally targeted central and southern Ohio and now is adding other parts of the state. New counties include Ashtabula, Butler, Carroll, Delaware, Erie, Hardin, Lorain, Mercer, 

Morrow, Muskingum, Ottawa, Richland, Seneca, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Washington.

Since 2017, Adams, Clermont, Perry, Pike and Scioto counties in southern Ohio have withdrawn from the program, while Franklin, Hamilton, Meigs and Warren counties have signed on. Other counties participating in START include Athens, Brown, Clinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Pickaway, Ross and Vinton.

The attorney general’s office explained program attrition since the launch of START.

“Some counties that originally expressed an interest in being an Ohio START county found they weren’t in a position to join the pilot program. PCSAO made the opportunity to join available to other counties that expressed an interest and ensured they could be a part of the original pilot counties so this program could help as many families struggling with addiction as possible,” AG spokeswoman Breanna Almos told Hannah News.

Along with VOCA and SOR grants, START draws funding from Casey Family Programs, OhioMHAS’s federal 21st Century Cures grant, United Healthcare Community Plan of Ohio, PhRMA and the HealthPath Foundation of Ohio.

Ohio State University’s College of Social Work and Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs are donating time and resources to conduct a full evaluation of the pilot to be published at its conclusion.

« Back to News