Advancing Racial Equity in Family SUD Recovery Programs


Women and their children are increasingly impacted by SUD, and accessible and equitable treatment programs that integrate comprehensive services for both women and children are sorely needed. With a 60% Black population and 30% of children living in poverty, New Orleans is particularly vulnerable in its lack of access to quality SUD treatment—especially facilities that allow the family unit to remain intact and provide equity in access to treatment across racial lines.


Volunteers of America (VOA) is designing an enhanced and equitable substance use treatment model for women and their children for 2023 implementation in New Orleans. The VOA Family-Focused Recovery (FFR) model will be customized for New Orleans, applying a racial sense. Using the evidence-based NIATx Co-Production technique, a culturally responsive program will be co-created with the community. The purpose of this Co-Production approach is to develop a program that aligns with local culture and needs.

The NIATx technique is based on five key principles:

  1. Partner with community-based lived-experienced individuals and stakeholders to uncover needs and establish preferences for program planning.
  2. Gain commitment and engagement from community and organizational leaders.
  3. Use individuals from outside the system to provide breakthrough thinking.
  4. Engage a respected progressive team leader to integrate innovative ideas into practice.
  5. Conduct pilot and rapid-cycle testing until equity aims are achieved.

The Co-Production Planning will be centered around a Community Policy Planning Board that includes community stakeholders who are opinion leaders in the Black community. The Board’s purpose is to establish the most pressing needs for pregnant and postpartum Black women with SUDs and to collect their insights into how VOA can most effectively meet those needs. The optimal program operational features generated by the Board will be integrated into a Patient Mapping Exercise to determine structural, workflow, and clinical features the New Orleans program will apply to attract and retain Black pregnant and parent women.


VOA will learn from the New Orleans experience; refine the design process for future programs; and use the process to co-create treatment programs in future locations that are inclusive, equitable, culturally relevant, and responsive to their communities. Success will be measured not only by increasing family access to comprehensive SUD treatment and reducing disparities in treatment by aligning programs to the local culture, but also through continuous engagement with recognized community leaders, church leaders, community advocates, and peer-led groups.

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