Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has received a $687,481 grant from the Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice. The funds will be used to launch Joining Forces for Children, a community coalition that will support the youngest crime victims of the opioid crisis in Lancaster County.

Joining Forces logo

“Children whose parents or caregivers have substance use disorders are more likely to be victims of abuse, neglect, and other trauma, said Alice Yoder, LG Health Executive Director of Community Health. “It is important that the community helps to provide coordinated and comprehensive services to support the healing process.”

Joining Forces for Children will establish a sustainable, community-wide initiative and coordinate direct services to support child victims of the opioid crisis. “Through strengthened partnerships across all community sectors, this coalition will increase awareness of and access to services for child victims and their caregivers,” said Yoder.

A newly formed Family Advocate role will work with individuals to navigate resources and services for child victims and their caregivers. The role will ensure effective identification and coordination of supportive services for children and caregivers in the community.

In early 2019, the Center for Children’s Justice and partners conducted a comprehensive survey of PA EMS providers. Of survey participants, nearly 83 percent responded to at least one opioid-related overdose in the past year where a child was present at the scene, and about approximately half said that children are frequently present.

To that end, Joining Forces for Children will implement Handle With Care – a trauma-sensitive approach so that no child slips through the cracks. Handle With Care is a program that will enable local police to notify school personnel when they encounter a child at a traumatic scene, so schools and mental health partners can provide appropriate trauma-sensitive interventions immediately.

Joining Forces for Children will be an extension of Lancaster County Joining Forces coalition. Joining Forces was launched in 2017 to coordinate countywide efforts to prevent opioid overdose deaths. The coalition consists of stakeholders from county and municipal government, health care, behavioral, community-based groups, businesses, criminal justice and EMS.

The partnership applies evidence-based strategies to increase awareness, enhance access to treatment and recovery services, improve patient safety and expand school-based prevention programs. The community-wide initiative has contributed to the 38 percent decrease in overdose deaths in Lancaster County from 2017 to 2018.

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