“Ohio is considered ‘ground zero’ for the opioid epidemic devastating the nation, and too often the children of those in the grips of addiction may be overlooked,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent
, dean of the Ohio State College of Medicine. “These training programs will provide crucial information to early childhood professionals so that they will be better equipped to support these vulnerable children and their families.”
The first project is an online training module that focuses on the impact of the opiate crisis on young children, including neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS). NAS is a multi-symptom group of conditions caused when an infant withdraws from certain drugs, including opiates, after prenatal exposure.
More than 2,100 early childhood educators/care providers have already completed the training since it launched in August. The interactive, online training includes pre-and post-training questions to assess participants’ knowledge, said lead researcher Andrea Witwer, director of training at the Nisonger Center and assistant clinical professor in the Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health/Psychology at Ohio State’s College of Medicine.
“When analyzing data from the first 420 participants, we found that we were able to significantly increase knowledge of early childhood providers on the impact of the opioid crisis on young children,” Witwer said. “So far, we’ve trained people from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, West Virginia, Florida, Wyoming, New York and Washington and 95 percent have reported overall satisfaction.”
Nisonger Center and University of Cincinnati will develop and pilot the curriculum that will include research on brain development, developmental outcomes of prenatal exposure to opioid and other substances, trauma-informed care, provider secondary trauma stress and strategies to support caregivers.
WIND will lead the development of the ECHO network to implement the curriculum to promote practices that support children and families impacted by opioid misuse. Project ECHO is a distance-based professional learning and development program model for health care providers, based on videoconferencing, case-based learning and ongoing disease management. WIND has successfully used this model with the early childhood workforce.
The ECHO project is funded by Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the online training is supported by Maternal and Child Health, with support from the Association of University Centers on Disability.
“Through the piloting of the curriculum and interdisciplinary training model, this initiative will link research to practical application in local communities, improve outcomes and provide recommendations for future interventions,” Witwer said. “With increasing rates of children born to or living with parents struggling with addiction, providing information to those who work so closely with young children is essential.”
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