At a recent Arizona House Teen Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee meeting, the Family Support and Substance Use workgroup presented recommendations for improving access to care for Arizona youth with substance use disorders and their families.
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A spokesperson for the workgroup emphasized the importance of improving access to treatment for these youth and their families.
“It’s not an easy process for families [to access treatment],” they said. “When you find out that you have a child in crisis and you’re needing to get them some sort of substance misuse support, it’s very difficult and it becomes very arduous and overwhelming in an already overwhelming time for a family.”
The first recommendation is to task a state department with developing a Community Information Hub to address the lack of easy access to information and resources regarding substance misuse in the state. The spokesperson noted that most families don’t know where to find information when they need it, as there is currently no centralized location to send individuals, families, and organizations in need of this information.
The workgroup recommends that state agencies work with coalitions and nonprofit organizations to provide this information about prevention, education, crisis management, treatment, post-treatment, and support.
The second recommendation is to increase the number of providers, residency programs, and apprenticeship programs in the state, as well as re-evaluate licensing requirements for providers. The spokesperson said these actions would address long wait times for care, the lack of facilities in communities across the state, and the lack of qualified workforce in needed fields and locations.
The third recommendation is to increase the affordability of substance use disorder care for families. The workgroup recommends the state implement tax credit deductions for inpatient and outpatient treatment to relieve some of the financial burden for families.
The fourth recommendation is to re-evaluate consent laws regarding substance misuse care for youth so that 16 and 17 year olds can consent to care for a 4-month stabilization period. The spokesperson explained that, in this case, the youth’s parents must be informed if there is any suicide risk, and care would be limited to only mental stabilization therapy.
They said this would address the need to treat teenagers in crisis who lack parental or guardianship consent for treatment, as well as a lack of treatment often due to not being able to contact a parent or guardian as a result of addiction and/or homelessness.
“You can’t speak about teen mental health [without speaking about substance misuse and homelessness]. They all intersect,” the spokesperson stated. “We should be able to make some good change with everything that we’ve been working towards.”
The fifth recommendation is to provide additional support for school districts to implement drug prevention education. This would involve giving additional funding to school districts to offer mental health first aid training, substance misuse awareness training, and peer to peer education to youth, staff, and parents.
According to the workgroup, the state should also create tool kits for school district websites for families and students in both English and Spanish, and also create a statewide anonymous texting app. The spokesperson said this would address the lack of consistency for substance abuse prevention outreach among school districts and the need for approved current curriculums.