Sen. Kaine backs legislation to support children impacted by opioid abuse

Capitol Connection

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is pushing for a potential new tool to help with the opioid crisis.

He’s one of the lawmakers behind bipartisan legislation that would target kids experiencing some of the lingering effects of drug abuse. 

It’s called the Handle with Care Act. Kaine introduced it this week with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

The Handle with Care program, which started in West Virginia, is as simple as law enforcement sending a “Handle with Care” alert to the child’s school following a traumatic event like an overdose or a drug raid. 

While the school does not receive any detailed information, other than the child’s name and the alert, it enables the school to exercise the trauma-informed training provided in coordination with the Handle with Care program.

The goal of the program is to promote safe schools and communities while ensuring that every child is able to thrive in school — even when they face trauma at home. 

“All too often, traumatic events have a devastating ripple effect across children’s lives. Given the right resources, schools can play a critical support role for kids impacted by trauma and provide them with a safe haven,” said Kaine. 

Jesse Wysocki said something like this program could have been effective in his own experience.

Wysocki is currently in long-term recovery for substance abuse.

He is also chief operations officer at the McShin Foundation. The McShin Foundation is a peer-to-peer recovery organization in the Richmond area. 

Wysocki said, while there are many options for adults battling substance abuse disorders, there isn’t much out there for the children of addicts. 

His three oldest children are 20, 19 and 16 years old. 

“All of them ended up either dropping out of school or getting kicked out of school,” he said.

And he said his own drug use played a role in their behavior. 

Wysocki said his daughter was shipped from school to school and her teachers were unaware of what was going on at home. 

He said his oldest son also had trouble in the classroom. 

“He acted out. He got in fights in school. The teachers didn’t know. They didn’t know the whole background of what was going on,” said Wysocki. “So it definitely affected them.” 

Wysocki said it is common for both drug abusers and their children to try and hide it from their teachers. 

Kaine’s legislation would help bring it to light. 

“Having that in the schools, having that for the teachers and the parents, it would help,” said Wysocki. 

The Handle with Care Act would authorize $10 million in federal funding to establish 5-year demonstration grants for states to address the impact of substance use related and other trauma on children and youth in public schools by strengthening or building Handle with Care programs.

To read more about the Handle with Care Act, click HERE.

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