TheLiberalOC is pleased to run this guest editorial from our friends at the Eli Home in Anaheim. They are hosting a fundraising effort to help Children of Addicts; the invitation precedes the editorial.
Please join us as we launch an exciting new program to address the most vulnerable victims of homelessness—children of addicts.
Homelessness is the most pressing social issue of our time. Its main root cause is drug and alcohol addiction. Children of addicts are the “silent sufferers”—innocent victims who need intervention. Shelters report that the majority of mothers who seek shelter for their families have addiction problems. CARP (Children of Addicts Recovery Program) will help home- less mothers who have the courage to fight their addiction issues to stay with their children during the recovery process.
We have been hard at work at our facilities to begin CARP operations in September of this year. However, we cannot do it without your help. Your support will help us to get over the top to begin this life-saving mission.
Thank you in advance for your kind consideration.
Sincerely, Event Chairs
Hon. Jordan Brandman Hon. Connor Traut Hon. Stephen Sheldon
Children of addicts are the “silent sufferers” of one of the most pressing social issues of our time – homelessness. This vulnerable generation is raising themselves and have behavioral and academic issues, suffer abuse and neglect, and will likely have substance dependencies at a young age.
Our communities must address root causes to effectively reduce homelessness. Drug and alcohol abuse are the single most defined causes of homelessness.
Children of Addicts Recovery Program (CARP) is a unique opportunity for families to stay together during recovery and helps end their homelessness.
THE SILENT SUFFERERS
“My two kids and I haven’t slept in 2 days. We just need a place to sleep. Can you help, please?” On a borrowed phone, Carmi was calling The Eli Home for Abused Children after going through a list of 10 different agencies that provide shelter. The advocate responded that there may be an opening in the next couple of weeks and that it would be beneficial if she came in for an interview for a better chance to secure a spot for shelter. In the interview Carmi explained that she left the father of her children 6 months ago because he was abusing drugs and abusive to her and the children. She had no family in Orange County; they were all in Arizona. She and the kids were living in her 1995 Chevy most of time parking in retail parking lots and industrial areas. Sometimes, acquaintances allowed them to sleep on their couches for a day or two. Only when the advocate said that The Eli Home does preliminary drug testing did Carmi admit that she had been using, but she said that she would test clean before she came into the shelter.
Sadly, Carmi represents the majority of homeless parents of children who are seeking shelter. At the Eli Home in the last 5 years, the number of mothers with prior or current addiction problems has increased to almost 80%. Other shelter operators in Orange County verify the alarming increase of drug and alcohol issues among their clients in the same time period.
Children of addicts are the “silent sufferers” of the opioid crisis that is crippling communities nationwide. They are the innocent collateral damage of drug abuse that causes homelessness and other profound deficits that negatively impact every aspect of their lives and futures. They are seldom seen as the face of homelessness because their parents become adept at hiding them for fear of losing their children to social services which, to them, is not an option. Currently, there are detox and recovery centers in Orange County, but most insurances do not cover the costs, and almost all do not allow parents to bring their children.
There must be a call to action to citizens, neighbors, and communities that we cannot continue to address homelessness without a plan to effectively deal with its main root cause which is addiction to both illicit and prescribed drugs and alcohol.
ANAHEIM TAKING THE LEAD
The city of Anaheim has had the highest number of opioid hospital emergency department visits and overdose deaths in the county of Orange in the last 7 years. It is time that the city of Anaheim takes a bold step in tackling the root causes of homelessness and thereby truly making a difference in preventing it. It is fitting that we start with the most vulnerable victims.
The Eli Home, Inc. is proposing an innovative program in the city of Anaheim, C.A.R.P., that will effectively address the gap in preventing homelessness by offering shelter and comprehensive detox and recovery services to homeless addicted parents along with their children.
A NATIONAL CRISIS
As our communities continue to see rising homelessness issues, it is imperative that we address our national drug and alcohol addiction crisis, as well as dual diagnosis mental illness, in order to be in a homelessness prevention position rather than one that is reactive to its effects.
The United States represents 5% of the world’s population, yet it has 80% of its opioid usage. Drug abuse is the single most defined cause of homelessness. Job loss is another cause, but the loss of jobs is often the result of addiction issues. The most vulnerable of the homeless population are children of addicts. They are the silent and hidden victims, whose parents are unable to properly care for them because of their drug or alcohol dependencies. This generation of children is raising themselves. Studies show that these marginalized youth often face:
- Challenges in cognitive and academic functioning
- Emotional, behavioral, and social problems
- Residential and caretaker instability
- An earlier onset of substance use
- Continual risk for child abuse and neglect
Mothers with lifetime or current drug involvement and/or heavy drinking in the last year were more likely to use punitive forms of discipline and display less parental supervision, closeness, discussion, and positive involvement with their child. Compared to their peers, children of substance abusing parents show increased rates of anxiety, depression, oppositional behavior, conduct problems, and aggressive behavior as well as lower rates of self-esteem and social competence. By young adulthood, 53% of these children show evidence of an alcohol or drug use disorder, as compared to 25% of their peers. Identifying deficits earlier in childhood will benefit children and families before problems continue to develop and will also support prevention efforts in this area.
Over the decade from 2008 to 2017, as the opioid epidemic took hold, the number of drug-exposed infants born per year nearly tripled in California.  Nearly 50,000 drug-exposed infants have been born in California since 2000, a parade of human suffering that has touched families, communities and taxpayers. The initial extra cost to save these newborns ranges from $159,000 to $238,000 per child, according to research from Stanford University. The overwhelming majority of these costs – about 80% – are borne by public insurance programs like Medi-Cal and paid for with tax dollars.
A LOCAL EPIDEMIC
Drug overdose (poisoning) is now the leading cause of unintentional injury and death in the United States, causing more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. Opioids – both prescription painkillers and heroin – are responsible for most of those deaths. In Orange County, there were 7,457 opioid overdose/abuse cases treated in emergency departments (ED) between 2011 and 2015. A recent report indicated that drug overdose deaths increased by 88% between 2000 and 2015 (HPRC, 2017), and nearly half of all deaths were due to accidental prescription drug overdoses. Orange County’s emergency departments (ED) visit rate for opioid overdose or abuse increased 215% since 2006, while hospitalizations increased 45%. 700 deaths related to substance abuse happen every year in Orange County. Anaheim has the highest average number of opioid ED visits in the county of Orange for the 5-year period of 2011 to 2015, and it also has the most opioid overdose deaths in the same period.
Connection Between Homelessness and Addiction
In 2017, there were approximately 554,000 homeless people in the United States. The US homeless population is increasing yearly, particularly in younger age ranges. Tragically, homelessness and addiction go hand in hand. The end result of homelessness is often substance abuse, and substance abuse often contributes to homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless has found that 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent, and 26% are dependent on other harmful chemicals.
Often, addiction is a result of homelessness. The difficult conditions of living on the street, having to find food, struggling with ill-health, and being constantly away from loved ones creates a highly stressful state of being. Individuals suffering from homelessness may additionally develop psychiatric conditions in response to the harsh lifestyle of feeling threatened by violence, starvation, and lack of shelter and love.
Homelessness, Mental Disorders, and Addiction
Reports suggest 33% of homeless people battle mental illness. Sources cite mental illness as another major cause of homelessness, which often leads to drug and alcohol abuse. Common mental disorders the homeless struggle with include:
- Bipolar disorder, Paranoia/Delusions
- Schizophrenia/Schizoaffective disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (particularly high in homeless veterans)
- Major depressive disorder, severe anxiety
In addition to suffering mental illness, homeless individuals suffering mental conditions are more likely to be victims of assault, further needing the comfort they temporarily find in harmful substances. Homeless individuals suffering difficult mental and emotional conditions may find it convenient to self-medicate with harmful substances as well. The combination of mental disorders and substance abuse is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. While it may seem that difficult mental conditions can be suppressed by drugs and alcohol use, this actually creates a destructive cycle of dependency.
Women, Homelessness, and Addiction
Homeless women suffer unique gender-based trauma, contributing to the higher amounts of drug use with homeless women than men. While 30% of homeless people overall suffer mental illness, the rate is significantly higher in female populations. 50% to 60% of homeless women suffer mental and emotional disturbances, often pre-dating their homelessness.
Many homeless women become homeless in response to escaping pasts laden with domestic violence or sexual trauma; some are victims who fled the hard grip of sex trafficking. These factors, along with co-occurring disorders from homelessness, have contributed to the fact that approximately one-third of homeless women have abused heroin and crack cocaine.
People who identify as LGBTQ have historically experienced extensive discrimination throughout their lives, both in their personal relationships and in the public sphere. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows the toll of this constant bias: LGBTQ persons who have experienced multiple forms of discrimination are four times more likely to develop some type of substance abuse disorder. Some of the contributing factors can include:
- Exclusion from social groups and activities.
- Physical abuse by family members or partners.
- Rejection by family of origin or by spiritual community.
- Job loss, loss of child custody, or other public discrimination.
- Violence based on sexual orientation or gender identification.
- Peer ridicule and rejection for LGBTQ youth.
- Sexuality discrimination combined with other forms of discrimination, such as gender, race, religion, etc. The Orange County Health Care Agency reported that in-patient residential treatment programs have many positive effects on quality of life and have one of the highest success rates, as they allow residents to focus 24/7 on their recovery process. Potential residents must be admitted full time to the facility and follow a long-term (30-45 days), of both medical and behavioral treatments. During this time, residents are always supervised by a professional staff, and they will follow a variety of programs such as meditation, yoga, and some physical activity. Unfortunately, this is one of the more expensive treatment options, and most homeless families do not have the resources or insurance to cover the costs.
- TREATMENT IMPACT
- These factors indicate that substance abuse treatment centers should be LGBTQ-friendly. Through doing so, these centers would develop more effective protocols to address several LGBTQ-specific issues.
 Opioid Overdose and Death in OC, OCHCA and OC Sheriff-Coroner Dept., 2017
 U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health
 Solis, Shadur, Burns, Hussong, Dept. of Psychology, UNC
 OC Register, T Sforza, Dec. 27, 2018
 Orange County Community Indicators, 2018
 OC Health Care Agency, 2017 Opioid Overdose & Death in Orange County
 2019 Addiction Center.com
 American Journal of Public Health, Travis P. Baggett MD, MPH, 2015
 K. Murray, Delphi Behavioral Health, 2017