The new public awareness campaign “Keep a Promise” aims to raise awareness about the connection between substance abuse and child abuse, aiming to establish a central resource for those seeking help.
The goal of Keep a Promise is to encourage people to speak up and protect the most vulnerable among us: “our children,” said Meliss Klorer, coordinator at Ohio Children's Trust Fund, a publicly funded child abuse and neglect prevention group behind the campaign.
“We know that addiction changes people and can devastate families,” she said, adding nearly 176,000 child-abuse and neglect reports were made to Ohio children services agencies last year, and substance abuse is involved in the cases of half of all Ohio children in protective custody.
Keep a Promise covers 16 northwest Ohio counties and has links to mental health, addiction, and child-welfare organizations in each county. Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center and Children’s Hospital has been the regional coordinator for the trust fund since May, 2017.
Dr. Gagandeep Brar, a neonatologist with Mercy Health, said cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome have increased with opioid use in Ohio, another clear indicator of how the epidemic affects children.
“About 5 percent of all [neonatal intensive care unit] beds in the country are occupied by babies who have this diagnosis,” Dr. Brar said. NAS, as it is abbreviated, can cause respiratory and feeding issues, weight gain, and seizures.
“In 2009, we only treated seven infants for NAS and its complications,” she said, referring to care at Children’s Hospital. “In 2017, this number had increased to 75.” Prevention and early intervention when a woman is pregnant and using drugs are key, the doctor said.
“The health-care team should work very closely with the social-services team,” she said.
Ms. Klorer implored the public to use the resources available and alert authorities if they have concerns about a child’s welfare.
“If you can’t go to bed at night and shut your eyes without worrying about a situation, that’s your gut telling you that you need to make that call,” she said.
More information is available at keepapromise.org.
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