Health Manager Orientation Guide

Substance Use

View of a woman who may be in need of help.Substance use affects many Head Start families and staff. The United States has an unprecedented opioid epidemic, and overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Studies have shown that people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and who also experience poverty or economic difficulties, are most likely to die from overdose and not to have access to needed supports and services.

Conversations about substance use are lifesaving and should take place regularly among staff and families. Every conversation about substance use reduces the stigma of identifying problematic use and asking for help. Head Start staff can promote positive stories and resources about recovery. While a program might not have recovery services on site, it is critical to have identified community resources that will be immediately available to families who need them.

Head Start programs are in an ideal position to offer education and to connect families and staff with community resources if they struggle with substance use issues. Program staff who interact with families may need to have difficult conversations about substance use. The health manager can help staff understand issues of substance use and build skills to respectfully engage families in these conversations. Additionally, the health manager can oversee efforts to educate parents and staff on safe storage tips for all substances that are in the same spaces as children.

Tips and Strategies for Substance Use

  • Work to educate staff and families about substance use disorders and paths to treatment and recovery.
  • Help to identify and address issues of access to services.
  • Make it a priority to have regular conversations about substance use to combat stigma.
  • Provide information about safe storage of all substances, even prescribed medications.