Children Services Director speaks out on new opioid treatment initiative

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Children Services Director Russ Moore was asked to represent 14 southern Ohio counties as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office unveiled a new test program Wednesday in Columbus seeking to help children who are harmed through their parents’ addiction to opioid substances.

According to an Associated Press story, the state will push $3.6 million towards counseling services for abused and neglected children and is funded predominantly through Victim of Crimes Act financing resources. Part of that funding is also a $75,000 grant from Seattle-based Casey Family Programs.

The program seeks to provide support to Athens, Clermont, Vinton, Fairfield, Fayette, Gallia, Highland, Jackson, Perry, Pickaway, Pike, Hocking, Ross and Vinton Counties.

“These monies will allow us, first and foremost, to help children who have been traumatized because they’ve been in a home where children may have seen parents shooting up or overdosing or other trauma associated where this kind of activity takes place,” said Moore. “These children (looking to be helped) may also have been victimized by parents who may take whatever stupor they’re in out on the children or not having providing care or supervision because they are so drugged up.”

Moore emphasized the other aspect of the project was to help “parents get sober and straight” to take care of their children.

“Maybe the children have been removed from the parents,” said Moore, “and the goal is reunify. That is that goal anyway, no matter what addiction. The law says it is our obligation (as children service case workers) to work with parents and try to reunify them, if that’s in the best interests of the child.”

If that were not the case, Moore said the next step is to attempt to home a child with the nearest capable relative.

“So often, these children that are removed because of parental opiate abuse, getting clean or even desiring to get clean or having the opportunity can take so long because it’s an ongoing process,” Moore said.

Moore said there were often “starts and stops” throughout the process and that sometimes it could take years.

“We have timelines for kids in care,” said Moore.”The law says within 12 months we have to figure out what the permanency of that child is going to be. What is in the best interest to make sure they have a feeling of security and care. We can extend that technically up to 24 months. By that time, the child has to have gone back to the parent or be in permanent custody of another family member or something.”

Because parents may be so addicted an unable to assume control of their children within 24 months, the program aims to provide some of the assistance needed for treatment. Moore admitted it was not a guarantee a parent would get clean, but the program aimed to gather social workers and behavioral care experts and courts together to work intensely on keeping families together as best as possible.

Moore said the program would also provide a certified peer mentor for those in treatment. The mentor would have experienced drug addiction, overcome it and work with the parents in addition to other partners.

According to Moore, in February, of the 18 children in Gallia Children Services care, 17 were removed from their parents directly due to parental opiate abuse or it was a significant contributing factor in the decision to remove them from their parent. Five of those children were infants removed from their mother after they were delivered because the mother and potentially the children were under the influence of opiates.

Moore said other counties may have more children in care at the current time but he felt it was important to emphasize that of the children in custody, nearly 100 percent of them were removed because of drug influences.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright