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The new Opioid-Impacted Family Support Program (OIFSP) degree track is designed to increase the number of family support paraprofessional trainees who target children, adolescents, and transitional age youth with parents who have been impacted by OUD or other SUDs, and their family members in guardianship roles. This will increase the OUD/SUD behavioral healthcare capital for the eight-county northern Kentucky (NKY) region (comprising Boone, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Owen, and Pendleton Counties), a high need and medically underserved area. The OIFSP will be a specialized track within Northern Kentucky’s degree in Human Services and Addictions for OIFSP paraprofessionals.

Youth Challenges in NKY


Over 55% of youth in the NKY rural areas live in high poverty areas. In 6 counties, the rate of children in NKY in foster care exceeds that of Kentucky’s overall rate of 47.3 (Kids Count Data Center, 2020). More than half of the children in NKY in foster care are not able to be placed in foster homes. The
numbers do not include children living out of home with friends, neighbors, and relatives, or moving among the three.

For the second year in a row, Kentucky is ranked first among all states in child maltreatment. Kentucky has ranked either first or second for the past seven years and in the top 10 for more than a decade. All but 2 of the NKY counties rate of child abuse or neglect cases with substance abuse involvement exceeded the Kentucky rate of 61% as a whole (Kids Count Data, 2020); in 3 of the NKY counties, the percentage of substance use involvement in child abuse or neglect cases exceeds 70%.

In NKY, all the districts except Beechwood Independent have at least two markers for disadvantage, and most have three or more. Fourteen out of 20 NKY school districts are either mid-to-high or high poverty districts. Approximately 3% of children in KY are homeless. Almost a third of NKY school districts exceed Kentucky rates of homeless children and a quarter have rates more than double those of Kentucky. The average national rate of per pupil funding is $11,762; for Kentucky, the average is only $9,863. Eight of the NKY school districts are in the bottom third of Kentucky district per pupil funding, and three are in the bottom ten.

Additionally, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation have increased consistently over the past 4 years in students, and mental health indicators are getting worse and are starting at a younger age. Prescription painkiller past 30-day usage has also increased across tested age groups in middle and high schools (Ronis-Tobin, 2019). Our own focus group data from transitioning youth suggest that they would like increased access to behavioral health care but feel stymied by older resident’s perceptions and reactions.

Finally, 3/4ths of those overdosing in NKY are younger than age 36, which is a new trend in OUD/SUD. Young males aged 25-34 had the greatest number of
overdose deaths in 2015, for the first time exceeding the number for the males
aged 45-54. This trend has continued through today (NKYHD, 2020). The majority of EMS opioid related incidents are in this age group as well. This suggests that the majority of SUD/OUD in NKY is now being initiated in adolescence.

All of these data suggest that the basic family structure in these counties is being threatened by substance misuse.