LOUISVILLE, Ky. and TAMPA, Fla., April 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- WellCare of Kentucky, a WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) company, and the Kentucky CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Network are teaming up to help children in foster care who have felt the impact of opioid addiction.
"We know opioid use is one of the key factors driving children into foster care," said Leann Magre, senior manager for foster care and adult guardianship for WellCare of Kentucky. "Right now, the number of children in foster care is the highest it has ever been."
On March 5, WellCare and CASA began holding a series of meetings to identify specific issues and identify solutions to assist children affected by opioid use in their families. Subsequent meetings are scheduled in Lexington on April 10 and Louisville on April 11.
The meetings coincide with the National Drug Endangered Children Awareness Day, where people in communities across the United States focus on raising awareness about the risks children face who are in families affected by drug abuse. The fourth Wednesday of every April is designated annually by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children.
Research was published by the University of South Florida last year about the increasing pressure on the foster care system due to the opioid crisis, confirming what WellCare already knew from its work with foster families and organizations.
Magre said CASA volunteers have a unique perspective on foster children, and those children affected by opioid issues in their families. They are an advocate for the child; attend court sessions with the child and family; and intersect with the state's Department of Community Based Services and providers, ensuring children and their families get the services needed per the court process.
"CASA has a strong picture of what is going on with the opioid crisis, and how that is contributing to the foster care issue," Magre said.
According to the Kentucky CASA Network's director of training, Melissa Paris, substance abuse is an issue in which CASA volunteers are well versed.
"Substance abuse is covered in our volunteers' initial 30 hours of pre-service training. Volunteers learn about the specific substance abuse rates in their communities, which includes opioids. Once they begin working a case, many volunteers see very quickly how opioid abuse impacts children. Volunteers will be eager to share their knowledge and will undoubtedly welcome the work WellCare is doing to address the issue," Paris said.
In Kentucky, WellCare has a care management program that supports its Medicaid members ages newborn to 19 in foster care.
"We know this is a big issue, and we are interested in getting CASA's perspective. What they are seeing on the ground. How do we help foster children? How do we help their families? How do we help the court system?" Magre said. "Once we identify the key issues and the right stakeholders, we can continue to evolve our process to improve the way we address each child's unique challenges."
According to WellCare's research, children born into opiate withdrawal are at risk for learning disabilities and other challenges. Many parents with substance use disorders lack coping and life skills, so they do not teach them to their children. The family situation and a child's genetic background can lead to a higher rate of substance abuse in the future, as well as difficulty coping with stressors. The life skills that children affected by opioid addiction in their family may lack can lead to unemployment and low productivity.
These children may also be at risk of addiction and overdose in the future.
"WellCare is in a unique position to intervene through a community-based approach," Magre said. "Early intervention may prevent poor health outcomes later for foster children."
As of Dec. 31, 2018, WellCare serves approximately 444,000 Medicaid members, 14,000 Medicare Advantage plan members and 22,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Kentucky. To learn more about how we care for Kentuckians, watch Brandi's story at http://youtu.be/YwOw5EgeSYo.
About WellCare Health Plans, Inc.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses primarily on providing government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, as well as individuals in the Health Insurance Marketplace. WellCare serves approximately 5.5 million members nationwide as of December 31, 2018. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com.
About the Kentucky CASA Network, Inc.
The Kentucky CASA Network, Inc. (KCN) is the state Court Appointed Special Advocate Association as recognized in Kentucky Revised Statutes. The KCN's mission is to strengthen and grow local CASA programs, who support trained community volunteers appointed by judges to represent the best interests of dependent, abused and neglected children in Kentucky. Learn more at www.kentuckycasanetwork.org.
SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.