The drug epidemic has caused innumerable casualties throughout N.H. In our state, “drug overdose deaths involving opioids totaled 412 in 2018 and has remained stable since 2015” (https://www.drugabuse.gov). While the deaths are one factor in evaluating the impact of drug abuse, the effect on the children and youth must be emphasized. Some researchers have named this the Ripple Effect, and others describe the children as being collateral damage.
In 2019, the United Hospital Fund (UHF) gathered data on the effects of opioids on children/youth throughout the U.S. The numbers are staggering. There are approximately 1.435 million children living with a parent with opioid-use disorder (OUD). There are 240,000 children in the country who have had a parent die; 10,000 parents are incarcerated long-term; and tragically, 325,000 children have been removed from their homes and are living in foster care or with other family members. In 2017, New Hampshire has the unenviable position of being number two behind the state of West Virginia in the rate of children affected.
The NH-DCYF and NH-CASA have been overwhelmed by reports of child abuse and neglect as a result of OUD. Social workers and CASA volunteers have little choice on how to protect our most vulnerable children. Removing children from their homes is never easy, but difficult decisions must be made.
My perception of drug users has shifted over the years where I once thought that users could just stop to get treatment. First of all, treatment is not readily available. Furthermore, the drug companies should be called “drug pushers” and be held criminally liable for the impact of the misinformation they claimed that opioids are not addictive; some unethical doctors and pharmacies are complicit in this crime.
In July 2021, Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania AG, said, “This was a person-made crisis. This epidemic was manufactured by an army of pharmaceutical executives.” Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family made billions, and now they are using bankruptcy ploys to shirk responsibility. Our state will receive millions in damages from these court decisions.
How will that money be spent? What price can be put on the children whose parents have died or who have been removed from their families for safety or are living in foster care and may be waiting for a permanent placement? They must be the recipients of reparations for their losses. Their lives have been torn apart.