A piece of legislation calling for funds to be provided for family-based support resources for those impacted by substance use disorder (SUD) is being introduced in the United States Senate this week. The passing of this bill would be a monumental step on the federal level for addiction recovery services. According to a summary of the bill, The Family Support Services for Addiction Act (FSSAA) by Senator Gillibrand, would establish a grant program for nonprofit family community organizations to provide resources for many family support services. The FSSAA would authorize funding for a grant program at $25 million over 5 years through the Department of Health and Human Services.  

The family support services, also commonly called parent peer support or family peer support, that would be funded are community-based social services that offer guidance, advocacy, and resources for families of individuals living with addiction. When family members are properly equipped with the tools, knowledge and support from resources available to them, they can better be there for their family member struggling with addiction.

A press release from the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand states that the types of Family Support Services this bill could fund are: Caregiver peer support; education and training; systems navigation for families trying to access treatment and other resources; counseling services; support groups for those in crisis and for those who have lost loved ones; and skill-building.

This bill would work to address the deep-rooted effects addiction has on family members, according to its summary. “We know that individuals with substance use disorder are not the only ones who need support in recovery. In fact, recovery is for the whole family. Through parent to parent mentoring, group conversations, and workshops, family peers have the potential to provide real world insight to address the challenges of supporting a loved one in recovery, while caring for oneself at the same time,” said Donella Cecrle, Executive Director of The Purpose of Recovery.

Andrew Kessler of Slingshot Solutions has worked on the legislation since its introduction, is excited about the possibilities it brings. “This is one of the rare pieces of legislation that seeks to build completely from scratch,” he said. “Currently, there are absolutely no federal funds or programs dedicated solely to this critical part of recovery. We cannot expect to make advances in recovery policy until we embrace the role of the family, and the community. We hope this legislation is followed by other bills that are just as innovative and just as needed.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately made it harder for support services to even be accessed, and if they are there is usually an additional cost. This also makes it difficult for families to get their loved ones help. At a time when overdose deaths are at an all-time high, the need for grant funding is essential to get more people help. Financial uncertainty due to the pandemic has made the situation even more dire.

Support for families dealing with a loved one living with addiction should be treated with high importance due to the toll on all involved. The potential grant funding that would be created from this bill would help a countless amount of people who need help navigating through. Executive Director and Co-Founder of A New PATH, Gretchen Burn Bergman explains, “As a mother of two sons who struggled for decades with a substance use disorder, I know how important it is to provide funding for supportive services to families. I am grateful that my sons are both in long term recovery and together we speak out in order to reduce stigma. It is essential that we create funding and resources to address this critical need.”

Hopefully, The Family Supports Services for Addiction Act by Senator Gillibrand will be passed and families can get the help they need through support services. It is crucial that families not only be able to get help for themselves through this potential grant program, but will learn how they can be there for their loved one. The California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP), was the first to endorse this bill.

Pete Nielsen LAADC, SAP

Pete Nielsen is the President & Chief Executive Officer for the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP), CCAPP Credentialing, CCAPP Education Institute and the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (BHAP). CCAPP is the largest statewide consortium of addiction programs and professionals, and the only one representing all modalities of substance use disorder treatment programs. BHAP is the leading and unifying voice of addiction-focused treatment programs nationallly. Mr. Nielsen has worked in the substance use disorders field for 20 years. In addition to association management, he brings to the table experience as an interventionist, family recovery specialist, counselor, administrator, and educator, with positions including campus director, academic dean, and instructor.

Mr. Nielsen is the secretary of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium, and on the publisher for Counselor magazine.  He is a nationally known speaker and writer published in numerous industry-specific magazines.  Mr. Nielsen holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management.