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Foster care system facing adjustments because of heroin addiction

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine discussed a pilot program helping foster care families. (WSYX/WTTE)

State officials shifted their focus to children as they continue to fight the heroin epidemic in Ohio.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine unveiled his latest plan to provide therapy for kids while giving treatment to their parents battling addiction. He said a similar program has worked in Kentucky by helping more people get clean, keeping more kids out of foster care and also saving the state money.

"There are a lot of kids out there that are in essence orphans because of this drug," said Cindi Gremling who runs the recovery facility Hazel's House. "We have two children we are raising that are part of this epidemic."

Gremling and her husband have adopted two children whose parents were addicted.

"Some of the victims we really don't think about are the children," DeWine said.

His program would cost the state $3.5 million. It will be tested out in 14 counties in southern Ohio.

Those counties will have case workers who will do weekly checkups on children and recovery coaches who will do weekly treatment for the parents.

"This epidemic is really crippling a lot of families," said Jody Walker, the director of the South Central Ohio Job and Family Services.

Supporters of the new program said the weekly checkups would be an upgrade from the usual monthly visits and group therapy.

"Families who have their children removed, we lose contact with them, they succumb to other issues with their opioid problem."

Gremling said her work running Hazel's House will also be changing. She's trying to get a foster care license to focus more on children.

"The adults are only going to change if they want to," Gremling said. "Little kids have got to have a chance at something better in life than finding Mom and Das ODed."

The treatment would be partially paid by Medicaid or private insurance. DeWine didn't say whether he thought the Republican replacement plan to Obamacare would make that treatment more or less affordable.

The program will start April 1.

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