New state policies and website aim to assist providers, families affected by substance use

State requirements and best practices that aim to improve the health of infants and parents affected by substance use at birth were announced June 26, 2023. 

If there are no safety concerns, state policy now allows substance-exposed infants to receive voluntary wrap-around services without being reported to Child Protective Services. All hospitals should update policies to align with state policy and train staff no later than January 1, 2025, to comply with federal requirements.

“The opioid and overdose epidemic is disrupting the lives of a growing number of families in our state,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, MPH, Chief Science Officer at DOH. “These changes will help every baby born in Washington get the healthiest start possible.”

The policies are a collaborative effort of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the Department of Health, the Health Care Authority, and the Washington State Hospital Association.

Read the Department of Health's news release for additional information.

In addition, a workgroup focused on addressing the impact of substance use on families is helping provide evidence-based guidance for health care providers on a new WA Portal webpage.

Information from the Pregnant, Parenting, Children and Families with Substance Use Workgroup can now be found here on the Healthier Washington Collaboration Portal. The site includes details for how to best care for infants who were exposed to substances before birth, and recommendations for how to prioritize opioid settlement funds and perinatal substance use outcome data in Washington. Additionally, you will find guidance documents on lactation and infant feeding to share with parents with a history of substance use. The guidance can be downloaded and is also available by QR code on the Lactation Guidance and Patient Education page

The workgroup stems from the state’s Opioid and Overdose Response Plan (PDF), created in response to the opioid crisis, overdose deaths, and other emerging drug use trends. This plan represents the work of countless professionals across government agencies, tribal governments, health care, academia, civic organizations, and more.

Executive leadership and workgroup leaders continue to coordinate activities through an ongoing process with stakeholders that includes federal agencies, state agencies, tribal governments, local public health, first responders, advocacy groups, clinical providers, and health care organizations to implement plan activities.