WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation to assist grandparents who are raising children as a result of the opioid epidemic, is headed to the president’s desk after being unanimously passed by the Senate in March.
According to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the bill puts a focus on lightening the burden for grandparents throughout Ohio, and the country, faced with the challenge of becoming sole caregivers for grandchildren in light of the opioid and addiction crisis affecting many parents.
“Our office has heard from a number of Ohio grandparents raising their grandchildren,” Brown said during a news conference call on Wednesday, June 26. “Unfortunately, we know the opioid epidemic puts more and more grandparents in this situation; it’s grandparents who step in to care for kids when their parents can’t because of an addiction, or when parents are tragically taken from their family by a fatal overdose.
“Two and a half million grandparents in the United States — 100,000 in Ohio — are the primary caretaker of grandchildren,” Brown continued. “Obviously, not all because of opioid addiction, but (it is) a big part of that. Experts report these numbers are growing as the epidemic gets worse.”
The bill, which Brown co-sponsored along with U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, would establish a task force to work on behalf of these families in order to assist grandparents in their role as primary caretaker.
“(The bill) establishes a task force so we can better figure out how to support these grandparents,” Brown said during the conference call. “Many of them have had to go back to work, many of them have had to deplete savings; there is very limited assistance available for them.”
As for the specific ways in which the bill will assist the affected grandparents, Brown said the task force will work to determine the immediate and vital needs of these families and go from there.
“We need to learn more about all of the challenges facing grandparents and other relatives in Ohio who have stepped up,” he said during the call. “So many of them are struggling; they didn’t expect this — they’re living on their own retirement, and it’s in many ways a long-term emergency situation. The task force will share resources to help grandparents and other relatives maintain their own health and well-being.
“We have a long way to go,” Brown continued. “This bill is a small step, but we need to take small steps and big steps to combat this awful opioid problem.”
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