Back to Community Stories

A Rhode Island Grandmother Reaches Out to Help Other Grandparents Affected by Opioid Crisis

By Tonya Tavares, Technology Transfer Specialist, VT, ME, NH, RI, CT, MA

The Request

A Rhode Island grandmother, whose daughter has an opioid use disorder, is now raising her grandchild and requested assistance from the STR-TA in creating a program for other grandparents facing similar challenges.

She requested technical assistance in: (1) being linked with services and network supports in the local community to help raise awareness of her program and support services, including information about existing services (i.e. legal, child welfare, insurance, housing, mental/behavioral health support, funding opportunities for grandparents, etc.); (2) being introduced to individuals with expertise to provide education to grandparents and community organizations, and to develop content where appropriate (i.e. trauma-informed care, stigma training, and addiction 101), with the potential for establishing a train-the-trainer model where interested people involved in the project could provide training support throughout the community.


The grandmother found navigating state agencies and legal aspects of caring for a grandchild extremely challenging. Few resources were available to guide her through myriad challenges inherent when a grandparent is suddenly thrust into caring for a grandchild. “I was in a very desperate situation and there wasn’t a lot of resources out there. There are so many intricacies” and no single place to find answers. "I became my own advocate."

Her Vision

While the majority of training and program content is in place, the grandmother needed assistance with synthesizing information and ensuring up-to date and evidence-based practices are reflected in content. She also needed help developing topic areas, identifying appropriate presenters, and developing a plan on how to implement.

Eventually, she has plans to create a nonprofit organization, Grands Flourish, to give grandparents in Rhode Island the guidance they need when facing a similar situation. Her experiences have inspired her to help others so that in the future, grandparents will have a clear guide on what steps they need to consider. “I remember how horrendous it was for me,” she says. But that experience has created the drive to create this program. With the guidance of the STR-TA technology transfer specialist, they were able to identify an employee of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) who had similar experiences as the grandmother; she has become an engaged partner, helping us to further develop a network and identify potential key stakeholders at the state level.

The Goals

Goals for the program included building the infrastructure to initiate a 12-week pilot program with 10- 15 grandparents. The ideal outcomes would be to: identify a trainer to help further develop and refine existing program materials and deliver training to grandparents and community agencies; establish an evaluation plan; and get the program up and running so that there can ultimately be a grandparents’ network hub to help them to feel and be less isolated, have resource exchange, and connected to services.

The Results

When the grandmother initially contacted STR-TA, her TTS went into immediate action. This is what was accomplished: