In the months and years ahead, Colorado State and local leaders have the opportunity to spend both American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and Opioid Settlement Funds. Being a local-control state is both a blessing and a curse in so many ways when it comes to investing in strengthening families. On one hand it allows local county commissioners and government agencies the flexibility necessary to listen to the children and families in the community and respond to the unique challenges they face. On the other hand, it requires a considerable amount of time and thoughtful coordination to communicate best practices, evidence-informed research, and lessons lived and learned to help county commissioners and State leaders alike make informed investments.

Through our roles as both a convener of collaborative spaces and experts on the prevention of child maltreatment, Illuminate Colorado proudly guided the collaborative development of investment recommendations to aid State and local decision-makers in prioritizing family strengthening to the most of this opportunity. Illuminate led both the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families ( the Partnership) and the Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee, a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, and it’s Family Advisory Board, regarding ARPA funds and Opioid Settlement Funds respectively, to identify concrete investments Colorado can make to transform systems and services to build brighter childhoods.  

Investing American Rescue Plan Act Funds to Prevent Child Maltreatment and Promote Family Well-Being

The pandemic has impacted so many different aspects of our communities, and the challenge on local, state, and federal levels is to determine how to prioritize allocation of these ARPA funds. Decision-makers within county and state agencies are having to balance and prioritize everything from physical infrastructure to community infrastructure.

The Partnership members including; Colorado Counties Inc., state and local public health and human services departments, families with lived experiences and Illuminate Colorado, created recommendations for county commissioners to guide investing ARPA funds in early childhood and reap long-term benefits of these investments to build stronger communities and families. 

Wise investment of American Rescue Plan Act funds will go a long way to address pronounced need and opportunities during pregnancy through the first five years of life.

Nobel-prize economist, James Heckman, shows that every dollar spent on high quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13% per annum return on investment.

The recommendations include an overview of why it is important to invest in the prevention of child maltreatment and promotion of family-well being, data on the pronounced needs and opportunities of families during pregnancy and through the first five years of life, and specific recommendations on how ARPA funds can be leveraged to support families in Colorado.

Setting Up a Framework for Dedicating Opioid Settlement Funds to Children and Families Impacted by Perinatal Substance Use

In the coming months and years, Colorado will also continue to receive funds from settlements and court rulings resulting from numerous lawsuits against drug companies, distributors and pharmacies over their role in the opioid crisis. It’s money that can — and should — be channeled to programs and services that equitably serve all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provide multigenerational support for families to thrive. 

Investing in tailored substance use disorder treatment and recovery services for families leads to better outcomes, cost savings and stronger communities. 

While pregnancy and motherhood can be a time of increased motivation for substance use disorder treatment and recovery, an absence of tailored services creates a gap between need and access. Substance use disorder treatment that supports the family as a unit has proven to be effective for maintaining maternal recovery and child well-being. Residential treatment programs serving women and children produced nearly $4 in savings for every $1 invested through reductions in child welfare costs, crime, foster care and low birth weight babies.

With both support and leadership from Illuminate, the Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee and its Family Advisory Board which elevates the voices of families who have experienced, directly or indirectly, the impacts of substance use during pregnancy, jointly developed a set of guidelines and recommendations for how opioid settlement funds with a focus on building Colorado’s statewide capacity to: 

  • align efforts, 
  • apply lessons from data, and 
  • recognize and respond to emerging needs.

Share these recommendations with your regional, county and state agency decision-makers.

American Rescue Plan Act Funds Recommendations

Opioid Settlement Funds Recommendations

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