Legislators push for study on ‘grandfamilies’ in response to opioid crisis

  • FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. More than 28,000 Americans died from overdosing on opiates in 2014, a record high for the nation. That’s 78 people per day, a number that doesn’t include the millions of family members, first responders and even taxpayers who feel the ripple of drug addiction in their daily lives. A rise in prescription painkillers is partially to blame: The sale of these drugs has quadrupled since 1999, and so has the number of Americans dying from an addiction to them. When prescriptions run out, people find themselves turning to the cheaper alternative heroin and, increasingly, the even more deadly drug fentanyl. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File) Toby Talbot

Monitor staff
Published: 2/9/2017 11:55:00 PM

State legislators are hoping to address another aspect of the opioid epidemic: the rising number of grandparents who are now taking care of their grandchildren.

The state Senate moved forward Thursday with an effort to establish a commission to study “grandfamilies.”

In speaking for the bill, Sen. Martha Hennessey explained these family situations can become complicated.

“A ‘grandfamily’ is a family where grandparents have become guardians of their grandchildren,” she said.

A recent Pew Charitable Trusts report released in November shows this situation is increasingly common. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of children raised by grandparents jumped from 2.5 million to 2.9 million nationwide.

The report attributed much of the issue to the opioid epidemic in the United States.

“When this happens, grandparents face specific challenges such as getting children into schools, securing the appropriate legal status as a guardian, and providing the child all they need to thrive,” Hennessey said, “(It) can also place a financial burden on the grandparents who are often on a fixed income.”

The Pew report cited a Generations United statistic that 21 percent of grandparents caring for grandchildren are living below poverty line. In addition, about 39 percent are over the age of 60 and 26 percent have a disability.

To address this issue, the proposed commission to study grandfamilies in New Hampshire would gather families, legislators, professionals and organizers from across the state. The group would review what data exists for grandfamilies, identify the challenges that exist, and develop solutions.

“This commission would ensure there are resources in place to help these families and to make sure the children have the care they require to thrive,” Hennessey said.

The state Senate approved the bill by voice vote Thursday, sending it on to a third reading.

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