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home : most recent : statewide implications August 17, 2017

7/30/2017 5:34:00 PM
The other victims of opioid epidemic: kids

Lincoln Wright, South Bend Tribune

Books, stuffed animals, baby dolls and other toys surround a small room inside the Indiana Department of Child Services office in downtown South Bend. The walls are painted a soft blue and brown, and the room is designed in a way — with touches such as blankets and children’s art — that’s meant to be calming.

It’s the first stop for many children after being removed from their homes by DCS.

It’s where six children were taken in the early hours of Wednesday after authorities raided a Mishawaka house on suspicion of selling heroin. Seven adults were arrested from the Fourth Street home, and four have been charged with dealing a narcotic. Ollie Bell, 40, was also charged with neglect of a dependent for the dangerous conditions the children were found in. 

The case was a dramatic reminder of the often-overlooked victims of the opioid epidemic — children. And it is a group of victims that is growing.

Across Indiana and in St. Joseph County, the number of “child in need of services” cases — children being abused, neglected or not receiving proper care — is on the rise. The opioid epidemic is a contributing factor, but those working the cases say substance abuse overall is driving the increase.

For Indiana in fiscal year 2013, 32 percent of cases where a child was removed from a home listed substance abuse as the reason. By fiscal year 2016, that figure had jumped to 53 percent.

In St. Joseph County, meanwhile, the number of new children-in-need cases hit 929 in 2016, more than double the figure from just five years earlier. This year, nearly 550 new cases had already been filed through June. Officials say substance abuse cases are the leading factor.

“This type of increase is becoming all too common in courts all across Indiana,” said St. Joseph County Probate Judge Jim Fox.

Related Links:
• South Bend full text

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