Last month, the Maryland Department of Health (DOH) announced that $2.7 million has been made available over the next three years to support pregnant and parenting women recovering from opioid use disorder and substance use disorder. Maryland is piloting the program, known as Strengthening Families in Recovery (SFP).
“The Strengthening Families approach will be incorporated into the current Recovery Housing for Pregnant Women and Women with Children program,” Chase Cook, spokesperson for the DOH, told State of Reform. “All families enrolled in this program will have the opportunity to participate in Strengthening Families.”
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The Recovery Housing for Pregnant Women and Women with Children program provides housing support for eligible women recovering from substance use disorders. Recovery housing coordinators are employed through local health departments, and will provide information and encourage families to enroll in SFP. Currently, the recovery housing program offers eight program locations in Anne Arundel County, and two in Baltimore City.
Maryland’s SFP pilot is funded by grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which will provide $900,000 annually over the course of three years. The funds will increase recovery support coordinators, pregnant parenting women navigators, and family support coaches. Recovery support coordinators will engage the targeted population through home visits, attending community events, and working with community partners for referrals.
SFP goals include engaging and enrolling families in the program so that they can identify and build on factors that support the entire family, remove administrative barriers—like criminal records through expungement processes—and assist women with navigating and resolving issues such as negative credit histories, financial debt, and access to benefits.
The pilot program is estimated to enroll 750 women and will be offered in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Washington, and Worcester Counties.
“Individuals who participate in this program will be given resources for MAT [Medication Assisted Treatment] upon request. The Strengthening Families in Recovery Program provides supportive services for pregnant women and women with children who are in the recovery process. It is not a treatment program. Therefore, MAT will not be offered as part of this program.”
Individuals receiving MAT at separate facilities will not be denied entry into the SFP program based on their participation in MAT. SFP supportive services are individualized, since no two families are alike. Resources, referrals, and the amount of provided support are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Cook explained the criminal history expungement process, and how having a criminal record creates major barriers for those recovering from substance use disorders.
“Criminal history is a huge barrier for individuals in recovery. It can affect one’s ability to obtain employment, find adequate housing, and even enroll in programs to further education,” Cook said. “Expunging a criminal record not only provides access to better opportunities, it also helps people to move forward and close what is usually considered a very difficult time in their past.”
Cook noted that individuals who receive expungements are better equipped to re-enter the workforce and have an easier time finding employment.
“They are able to acquire homes in better neighborhoods, which generally gives their children access to better schools. They are able to move on from the stigma that can sometimes be associated with having a criminal record.”