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Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder May Reduce Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect

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Buprenorphine treatment has been found to be an effective treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Child welfare systems have been partnering with treatment providers to increase access, yet little is known about its role in improving outcomes related to child maltreatment. This paper finds, for the first time, that increased availability of buprenorphine treatment predicts reductions in certain types of child maltreatment caseloads in 25 states. Key findings include:

  • Changes in buprenorphine patient capacity have no relationship with the number of children reported to child protective services.
  • Increased treatment capacity predicts lower rates of alternative response, in line with expert recommendations that alternative response is not appropriate for parental SUD. Alternative response is an approach to provide supportive services to families with lower-risk maltreatment allegations.
  • Increased treatment capacity predicts lower rates of substantiated abuse or neglect, suggesting treatment is effective in reducing immediate risk to children.
  • However, children with unsubstantiated maltreatment are still at risk if supportive services are not provided.

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