President Trump is on a roll this week and in that mode, he’s about to make 2.6 million grandparents very, very happy. All with the stroke of a pen. He’s on a roll this week with pardoning the Hammonds, putting NATO fiscally in their place and nominating Bret Kavanaugh to fill the void about to be left by Justice Kennedy at the Supreme Court. All promises kept and all fantastic news for Americans. Perhaps Americans will never tire of winning after all.
On Monday, July 9, President Trump signed into law The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, first introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in May of 2017. The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act has received support from 40 older adult and child advocacy groups including AARP, American Academy of Pediatrics and Generations United, which aims to improve the lives of kids and older adults.
The law signed by President Trump will provide resources to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act cleared the Senate unanimously in June. It creates a federal task force that will set up a one-stop shop of resources for millions of grandparents in the U.S. who are raising grandchildren. This has to do with the fight against opioid abuse and the resulting effect it has had on grandparents who wind up raising their displaced grandchildren. They are forced into providing caregiving and a family environment for these children while their children are treated for their addiction. Sometimes this even includes great grandparents these days.
“With so many parents struggling with addiction, grandparents are increasingly coming to the rescue and assuming this role,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who co-authored the bill. “It is essential that we do all that we can to help these families.” It also addresses the fact that many of these parents d*e and the grandparents become defacto parents to their poor grandchildren. This law and the resources it provides was desperately needed by affected grandparents. The resources the federal government will make available will include information about legal custody, social services and mental health counseling, according to AARP, which supported the bill.
“Approximately 2.6 million children are currently being raised in grandfamilies, and experts say this number is rising as the opioid epidemic continues to devastate families and communities across the country. The legislation follows a March Aging Committee hearing where the members heard from grandparents who are raising grandchildren when parents are struggling with addiction or are no longer able to care for their children. During the hearing, experts and grandparents testified on the need for grandparents to have easy access to information about resources available to assist them.
““As the opioid epidemic expands, grandparents increasingly are being called on to become the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Although this caretaker role can be beneficial for both the grandparents and the grandchildren, it also presents several challenges,” Sen. Collins said. “Our legislation would spur a federal effort to identify, promote, coordinate and disseminate information, resources and best practices that assist grandparents who are raising grandchildren.”
““The opioid crisis is not only straining families, communities, law enforcement and health care systems, but it is also presents new challenges for older Americans,” Sen. Casey said. “As older Americans respond by stepping in to care for their grandchildren, this legislation is designed to say that you are not alone and that we have your back, with a focused federal effort to providing the information and supports grandparents need.””
The law will establish a Federal Advisory Council to support grandparents and other relatives raising children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be the lead agency coordinating the work of the council. Its charge is to identify, promote, coordinate and disseminate information about resources and best practices to help relative caregivers meet the health, educational, nutritional and other needs of the children in their care, as well as maintain their own physical and mental health and emotional well-being. The council will also develop a process so the public can provide comments and recommendations to them.
Federal employees representing various agencies and departments whose work impacts grandfamilies will comprise the other members of the council. This includes agencies like the Administration for Community Living, Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mental Health and Substance Use. To document the council’s progress, they will issue a report to Congress in the first six months and again in two years on best practices, resources and other information for grandfamilies — as well as gaps in services to meet the families’ needs.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill. I usually don’t agree with him on anything, but this time is different. Brown said his office has heard from a number of affected grandparents in Ohio and from other places. He points to the opioid epidemic as one of the contributing factors to the trend. “Experts report these numbers are growing as the epidemic gets worse,” he said. “Any parent of a young toddler can tell you caring for young children can be physically demanding,” he said. “For so many grandparents then, taking on that responsibility means the end of retirement for those who can go back to work or depletion of savings,” Brown said. It’s devastating many families out there.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), another co-author of the bill, said he was pleased the legislation was signed into law, saying that grandparents face “unique challenges such as delaying retirement, bridging the generational divide and working through the court system to secure custody.” This isn’t about parties or politics… it’s about a crisis that is ravaging this country over opioid abuse. While Congress continues to fight and tussle on most issues, legislators have come together a remarkable number of times this year in support of grandparents and other relatives raising children. President Trump deserves the credit for this. He has not forgotten about these grandparents, their children or grandchildren.
That being said, why didn’t Obama focus on families affected by the opioid crisis?
“Under President Obama, a small army of executive branch “slow-walkers” served as pallbearers, knowingly or not, to the grim march of overdose deaths from commonly prescribed opioids that was already underway in years before he took office. As the body count climbed, the Brownlee-led US Attorney settlement with Purdue, as well as West Virginia’s 2004 settlement against the same company, ought to have prompted scores of decisions to reign in opioid prescribing. Instead, the opposite happened: prescribing numbers continued to grow throughout Obama’s first term, reaching a peak in 2012. Despite subsequent reductions, they remain the highest in the world.
During Obama’s time in office, licit opioid prescribing increased not only in number but also in potency. Most notable was expanded use of the powerful synthetic known as fentanyl, a drug approved only for opioid-tolerant c****r patients suffering from pain beyond the reach of traditional opioids, but one that drug makers marketed in a manner of ways, including in advertisements that pictured construction workers and others employed in similar, physically demanding jobs. Although a reduction in opioid supply was desperately needed, and close scrutiny of opioid manufacturers more than warranted, the Obama administration declined to do either.
What most exacerbated the opioid crisis was the dramatic rise in overdose deaths from heroin and heroin adulterated with illicit synthetics (fentanyl and carfentanil). While Obama was president, illicit heroin underwent an industrial transformation: market expansion, innovation, and in many places, a reconfiguration of production and distribution. Yet the path of initiation to heroin via prescription pills that fueled its resurgence went substantially unchallenged by the president. In fact, it was strengthened and fortified.
Though Obama did not start the opioid crisis, it is a blunt and brutal fact that, under his administration, drug overdose became the leading cause of d***h for Americans under the age of 50, and the opioid crisis became the worst drug epidemic in American history. It is an irrevocable part of his legacy as president.”
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Jeff Rainforth contributed to this story.