GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Board of Developmental Disabilities has noted an uptrend in youth from the ages of infancy to three years needing help because of the impact with Gallia’s drug epidemic.
Gallia County Commissioners signed a proclamation Wednesday recognizing the effort to make the public aware of individuals with developmental disabilities and the issues surrounding them.
“Everybody in Gallia County is talking about the epidemic that’s going on, the heroin, ” said County Commissioner Brent Saunders. “So many just don’t realize it’s affecting their offspring.”
“It will be a lifelong implication,” said Gallia County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Pamela Combs. “There’s a 275 percent increase in referrals (for services) in infants to three-year-olds related to drug use in Gallia County. “
“The state’s got to address this somehow,” said Saunders. “It’s only going to get worse.”
“Once a child has a developmental disability, typically it requires lifelong support,” said Combs. “It increases (needed) services.”
In a statement sent to government officials, Combs writes “I feel like we are literally on the Ohio front lines of this drug war and the newborns in Gallia County are among the first casualties who are now facing a lifetime of developmental disabilities as a result of opioids.”
Between 2015 and 2016, the board experienced an exponential number of 275 percent in young children of toddler age and younger served. Combs writes that in 2016, 27 percent of babies referred to the board may have a lifetime developmental disability due to drugs and 10 years ago the percentage of babies referred due to drugs was zero.
Combs writes that in 2016, the board served 15 children of such age that showed signs of disabilities due to drugs. Children were reportedly born drug-addicted to due to abuse because of the addiction of caregivers. The superintendent reports the majority of abuse recorded was opioid-related. With 2016 early intervention program referrals 27 percent of the 56 new referrals were the result of drug abuse.
Combs further wrote that of four children out of 42 referrals in 2015, they showed signs of developmental disabilities due to drugs. Combs reported it likely those four would have a disability through the rest of life. Combs writes that in 2006 though, no children were reported with disabilities connected with drugs.
Comb worries by next year the county board could be serving 50 additional children each year with developmental disabilities connected with drug abuse and trying to meet the needs with limited resources. She further lists that last year, 19 percent of all births in the county were referred to early intervention services due to developmental disabilities out of roughly 300 births. She lists other counties as being closer to three to four percent in comparison.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.
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