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HHS Introduces New Video Series on Federal Disability Rights Protections That Apply to Some Individuals in Recovery from an Opioid Use Disorder

As part of a shared commitment to ensuring protections from discrimination apply to all people, including those in treatment for or recovery from substance use disorders, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have partnered with  the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) to produce a new video series, “Civil Rights Protections for Individuals in Recovery from an Opioid Use Disorder.”  The five-part series informs audiences about the application of federal disability rights laws to child welfare programs and activities, discusses protections that apply to some individuals in recovery from an opioid use disorder, provides an overview of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and addresses common misconceptions about MAT as a treatment approach.

The video series includes:

These resources provide needed training for personnel in the child welfare system on federal disability rights laws.  Intended audiences include but are not limited to: child welfare caseworkers, social workers, service providers, parent’s attorneys, agency attorneys, children’s attorneys, advocates, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), judges and judicial officers, Court Improvement Program personnel, Family Treatment Court personnel, substance use disorder treatment providers, and other child welfare stakeholders.  The videos also inform individuals in recovery about protections they may have under federal disability rights laws. View the complete video series.

“The Office for Civil Rights has received complaints from individuals in recovery who have experienced discrimination in the child welfare system, based solely on their participation in active treatment like medication-assisted treatment” said Acting Director Robinsue Frohboese. “These new resources are designed to prevent discrimination from occurring by teaching staff in the child welfare system about their obligations under federal civil rights laws and how to carry them out in practical ways.”  She added, “by joining with our HHS partners to produce this training, we are advancing the dual goals of preventing discrimination and providing families with needed supports.”

“Child welfare workers need critical and relevant knowledge to assist families coping with relatives going through opioid recovery. The new materials released by HHS provide valuable information that addresses that need,” said JooYeun Chang, ACF’s acting Assistant Secretary. Chang expressed the importance of preparing child welfare professionals to protect the civil rights of those in opioid recovery. “HHS’s new resources will help train workers committed to achieving the dual goals of promoting stable families while also respecting the rights of those recovering from addiction.”

“We are committed to ensuring protections from discrimination apply to all Americans -- including people in treatment for or recovery from substance use disorders,” said acting Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Tom Coderre, who leads SAMHSA.  “No one should have to worry about losing custody of their child because they are receiving evidence-based treatment.”

The NCSACW is an initiative of HHS and jointly funded by the SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) and the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), Children's Bureau's Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN).  Visit the NCSACW website ( for information on improving family recovery, safety and stability by advancing practices and collaboration among agencies, organizations and courts working with families affected by substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders and child abuse or neglect.

To learn more about OCR’s commitment to improving access to child welfare programs and activities please visit the OCR Civil Rights webpage.

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