START program to help families recover


PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A new pilot program seeks to keep families with young children together, while parents undergo treatment and recovery for a substance use disorder.

The program is called START (Sobriety, Treatment and Recovery Teams) and is based on a successful, national, multi-state effort.

“This is another very innovative effort that examines another aspect of addiction, from a child’s perspective and how we can break that cycle of addiction,” said Dr Matthew Christiansen, director of the Department. West Virginia Health and Human Resources Office of Drug Control Policy. “So we don’t just take treatment, but we put people on treatment that then improves their children’s outcomes, which has a long-term multiplier effect. “

The initial target group are families involved in CPS (Child Protection Services) with children under 5 years old.

“Families are also motivating. They want us, they inspire us to do better when you see your kids and want a better life for them than what you had, he said. “When a child is involved it can be a very stressful time, but also a time of hope and a time that families can use to maintain and support their recovery. “

The efforts are also designed to help reduce pressure on an already inundated foster care system.

“It’s a long term battle that we are winning this battle with a bunch of little successes,” he said. “So every time we get one more person to recover, that person could be an inspiration to so many other new people.”

Additional pilot programs remain in the planning stages and are expected to be launched in Fayette, Kanawha, Mercer and Raleigh counties by the end of 2021.

Prestera Center provided the following statement to WSAZ:

Prestera Center for Mental Health Services, Inc. has received funding from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), to provide START services. START stands for Sobriety, Treatment And Recovery Teams and is a model for bringing behavioral health and recovery treatment services to families involved in Child Protection Services (CPS) at WV DHHR offices in Kanawha counties. and Putnam in West Virginia.

START funding is dedicated to developing care teams and building relationships for a collaborative community system in Kanawha and Putnam counties in West Virginia. It is expected that the project will complete the ongoing assessment and could potentially serve as a model approach for all counties in West Virginia.

In the START program, families receive a range of intensive and supportive services ensuring the safety, education and permanence of children at home when parents use substances and / or are dependent on substances. Crisis intervention is typically required by the target population due to suicidal or homicidal ideation, physical assault, self-injurious behavior, chaotic living environments, or other serious risk behaviors (including children fleeing).

Crisis planning is part of the family treatment plan. Planning, braiding, communicating and coordinating care for START members together with the family are essential to achieving family goals and the safety of children who stay at home.

Experience shows that families participating in CPS need a unique constellation of services that they can access immediately to meet their complex needs. A specially trained CPS worker is paired with a family mentor, who is someone with lived experience of substance abuse and child protection. This dyad works in conjunction with an integrated child and family team that meets regularly and as needed.

In addition to the CPS worker and family mentor, members of these family teams include the child and family; treatment providers (mental health and / or addiction counseling), court and education system representatives where possible; and, other people identified by the child and family who are important to them and who may be able to provide informal support. It is a shared decision-making process that includes an ongoing assessment of family strengths and needs and plans for child safety; prevent and respond to a crisis; treatment (child and all family members); supports required for parents to maintain their recovery; housing assistance; behavioral health and primary care; employment / education; transport; community support services such as support groups; the development of informal family supports; child care; and any other need which, if not met, may interfere with the parent’s ability to achieve and maintain recovery. The family mentor provides additional commitment and support to the parent (s).

All treatment services provided are trauma-focused, evidence-based and are provided to all family members. Intensive outpatient services are provided when needed and are gender specific and are designed to treat concurrent disorders as indicated. Drug tests are done regularly. Arrangements are made for childcare and transportation as needed.

At the start of implementation, anyone interested in working for Prestera Center with START Families should apply at For more information on START, contact Catherine Luikart at [email protected] Start at

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