Substance Use Task Force & Mind The Gap Report Discussion – November 2017 SAC Meeting


Last year, the State Advisory Council (SAC) determined that the impact of substance use on Vermont children and families was a topic that demanded more attention and should be lifted up and focused on by the council. A Substance Abuse Task Force was formed to move this work forward.

As a culmination of their work over the past year, the task force developed a report to lift up key issues and recommendations for action.

Sarah walked the SAC through the report, titled the Substance Use & Opiate Task Force Report and Recommendations. Cheryl Huntley, a member of the Substance Abuse Task Force, joined to share proposed recommendations. The SAC was asked to listen and also consider placing the recommendations from this report into the 2017 How Are Vermont’s Young Children & Families report as well.

The report highlights the importance of an integrated and coordinated system that is inclusive of families and children, as well as the connection between substance use and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Cheryl stated that historically, treatment has not been family-focused, and the recommendations within this report serve to change that. The recommendations include the following:

  • Family centered and multi-generational treatment services
  • Family friendly treatment and care settings
  • Increased investment in prevention efforts
  • Prioritized services and treatment to parents with children
  • Integrated treatment and care collaboration across adult and child systems
  • Cross-training, cross-system information sharing
  • Flexible financing strategies
  • Develop best practices and support engagement and address barriers to accessing treatment.

Cheryl stressed that it will require significant cross-training, education, and funding for two very different systems to come together in order to make change.

The Council was pleased with the report and the work that went into its development. Several Council members suggested trying to condense and integrate the recommendations so that it is more digestible and actionable for policy makers.

Cheryl said there needs to be some sort of action team or infrastructure developed in order to proceed with implementing these recommendations. Reeva Murphy, co-chair of the SAC, suggested forming an interagency team specifically focused on substance abuse and families, which would tie into the Council’s ACEs work (a focus topic for the 2017-2018 year).

Sarah asked for approval of the document and it’s use of recommendations in the How Are Vermont’s Young Children & Families (HAVYC&F) report. The Council passed the motion to approve the document. They requested that further refining and condensing occur prior to accepting the recommendations for placement in HAVYC&F. Council members also asked that BBF include more links to substance use throughout HAVYC&F so that the recommendations are contextualized. This motion was passed after hearing how the Building Vermont’s Future From The Child Up recommendations would also be incorporated into the report.

Next, Ann Dillenbeck, Chair of the Data & Evaluation Committee, and Emilie Kornheiser, Early Childhood Action Plan Director for BBF, presented the Substance Use Disorder and Its Impact on Children and Families Mind the (Data) Gap report, which has been in development for the last several years by the Data & Evaluation Committee. The report recognizes that there is broad desire throughout both Vermont’s public and private sectors for data-driven decision making, however those decisions are only as good as the available data. The report identifies the data gaps we face in answering key policy questions about substance use and how it affects Vermont children and families.

Building on national data, and with a deep understanding of Vermont state data systems, the report examined how to expand our statewide capacity to answer these policy questions effectively, so we can truly turn the curve. The report recommends three paths towards closing data gaps: Sustaining, expanding, and creating. There is a need to sustain and continue to invest in the data set we already have;to expand upon the data that requires increased scope to be effective – either across systems, geographic regions, or over time; and to create new data sets where we are not currently collecting critical information. Finally, there is a need to create and establish new data linkages and data best practices to support cross-collaboration.

The Data & Evaluation Committee suggests the following next steps to move forward the recommendations of the Mind the Gap report:

  • Early childhood leaders embrace the report and its recommendations and consider what leverage points they can impact in closing the data gap.
  • Simultaneously, the committee will convene a meeting of relevant data stewards who touch this data every day, and begin to move forward an alignment of measures across time, geography, and silos.
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