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OU researchers to implement Parent-Child Assistance Program to support mothers struggling with addiction

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Researchers at OU are aiming to strengthen families in Oklahoma by implementing a program developed at the University of Washington School of Medicine, according to a Tuesday press release.

The Parent-Child Assistance Program provides assistance to pregnant and parenting mothers struggling with addiction and is funded by private donors, according to the release. The Arnall Community Fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is one of the private donors supporting the project and this fund has awarded the OU Foundation $1.5 million to establish the program. 

The PCAP is also being supported by Casey Family Programs, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, according to the release. 

According to Sue Ann Arnall, president of the Arnall Family Foundation and committee member of the Arnall Family Fund, the mission of the PCAP is to help families thrive.

“Our hope is to mirror the success in the state of Washington and expand the program throughout Oklahoma and beyond,” Arnall said in the release. “Robust evaluation results will hopefully show we can help families thrive while saving critical state funds, which aligns closely with our mission to make transformational changes in the welfare of children.” 

The state of Oklahoma has substance use, incarceration, childhood adversity and foster care rates above the national average, according to the release. Evaluators of the program at OU will determine cost savings deriving from reductions in regards to those issues. The project will be led by principal investigator Erin Maher, OU associate professor of sociology and associate research director for OU’s Data Institute for Societal Challenges. 

“Supporting mothers facing complex challenges during a time when they desperately want to be good parents is a window of opportunity to make a profound difference,” Maher said in the release. “I am incredibly grateful to be part of a state making these investments in partnership with our university and philanthropy. It is an investment in hope, as fundamentally, recovery and parenting are both acts of hope.”

According to Heath Hayes, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse is supportive of a peer recovery support specialist role. Many PCAP case managers who work with mothers over three years have personal experience with recovery.

“As a mental health agency, we are particularly encouraging of the peer recovery support specialist role in helping women overcome substance use and post-partum conditions with proven interventions,” Hayes, chief information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, said in the release. “Recovering mothers helping mothers in need is a continuum we can all be proud of creating.”

According to the release, OU has offered graduate student support and funding for a national symposium on substance use disorders. 

“This project embodies OU’s mission and is an excellent example of how OU partnerships with public and private institutions contribute to implementing and evaluating research-based solutions to significant societal challenges,” Shane Connelly, director of the Institute for Society and Community Transformation within OU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships, said in the release. 

According to the release, the program provides support to mothers facing substance abuse that will reduce dependency on child welfare assistance, lead to fewer alcohol and drug exposed infants and increased education and employment rates. The program will be implemented in Oklahoma with the goal of benefiting mothers and families. 

“We are delighted to partner with our colleagues in Oklahoma to bring PCAP to the state,” Susan Stoner, director of the Washington State Parent-Child Assistance Program, said in the release. “We expect that PCAP in Oklahoma will demonstrate strong, positive outcomes for mothers in the program, as it has in Washington state, opening the door for scaling up to benefit mothers and families across the nation.”

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