More Funding Needed for Influx of Foster Kids in Opioid-Riddled Tennessee - JourneyPure Franklin

More Funding Needed for Influx of Foster Kids in Opioid-Riddled Tennessee

Michelle Rosenker

July 19, 2019

With Tennessee being one of the top states in the country struggling with opioid overdose, it comes as no surprise that the children of this southern state have suffered because of it. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has called on Governor Bill Lee to increase funding towards foster care programs in the state to help support the growing amount of foster kids needing care as a result of the opioid crisis. Without this funding, DCS cannot continue to provide the quality of care that they uphold themselves to giving to these kids. As a result, they have requested $78 million in additional funding to accommodate a 10.3% increase in the number of children in state custody since 2016. 

Jennifer Nichols, DCS Commissioner spoke to Governor Lee at a budget hearing and explained that the money is needed to increase case management and health treatment. Stating that, “at this point, we are asking to just recognize that this ain’t going anywhere,” Jenniffer Nichols pushed for the appropriate funding to continue to serve a community in need more than ever before.

Statewide Opioid Statistics

Tennessee is undoubtedly one of the hardest-hit areas in America when it comes to the opioid crisis. Right up there with West Virginia, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., Tennessee experiences opioid overdoses at an alarming rate. For every 100,000 Tennesseans, 19.3 people die from an overdose involving opioids. One of the reasons why this number is as high as it is is due to illegal pill mills scattered about the state. These pills mills are the driving force behind the public’s access to opioids, as 94.4 people out of every 100 people in the state are prescribed an opioid medication. With blood on the hands of sales representatives for certain brand name opioids and corrupt healthcare professionals, more and more people continue to get hooked on opioids — many of whom suffer a fatal overdose as a result. 

Nationwide, an average 14.6 out of every 100,000 people die from an opioid overdose, making the death rate caused by opioids in Tennessee higher than what is being experienced throughout the rest of the country. The following includes the most recent data surrounding the opioid crisis in Tennessee:

  • Fentanyl is now the deadliest opioid in Tennessee, claiming the lives of more people than heroin or any other prescription painkillers
  • 1,090 babies were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which represented a 16% increase since 2013 
  • 23,657 people suffered a non-fatal drug overdoses in 2017 alone
  • More than six million painkiller prescriptions were written in 2017 (comparatively, there are 6.77 million people living in Tennessee)
  • Rates of both HIV and hepatitis C have increased in men and women throughout Tennessee due to intravenous drug use 

Impacts of Opioid Addiction on Children

There is no doubt that the opioid crisis is altering the lives of countless individuals living in states like Tennessee. When discussing opioid addiction, most of the focus is placed on the addict him/herself. However, addiction is a family disease, meaning that it affects everyone that it touches — including innocent children. 

Today, 8.7 million children have a parent with a substance use disorder. In 2016 alone, more than 270,000 children were placed in foster care. More than one-third of those placements were due to parental substance use — the second most common reason for placement, following behind neglect.

For many of these children, the impacts of opioid addiction begin even before they are born. Women who abuse opioids while pregnant run the risk of their unborn babies suffering from a number of different complications, ranging from heart defects and low birth weight to spinal cord defects and prematurity. Those babies who are born to opioid-dependent mothers can also experience neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, where they suffer withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth. Many of these children, if they are not taken out of the parents’ custody at the time of birth, find themselves struggling with the innumerable effects that opioid addiction presents them with.

Children that are exposed to opioid abuse and addiction prior to adulthood at automatically at greater risk for abusing opioids themselves. While witnessing someone abuse these habit-forming drugs, children can lose their sense of security (especially if the user is a parent or caregiver), become anxious in their behaviors, and even start developing symptoms associated with depression. These effects are often caused by the physical and emotional neglect that they experience, along with the impacts of traumatic events like watching a loved one overdose or witnessing violent behavior. 

The emotional, social, psychological, and physical effects that substance use disorders like opioid addiction can place upon young children can catch up with them quickly. As they grow older, children exposed to this type of situation can struggle in school, have problems making friends and maintaining relationships, and even begin abusing drugs and alcohol themselves. The longer that a child is being affected by one’s opioid use disorder, the more likely it becomes for him or her to suffer from mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder, and depression (which if left untreated, can lead to suicidal tendencies and behaviors). Worst of all, children raised in homes where opioid use disorder occurred are prone to repeat the behaviors of their parents or caregivers, continuing the cycle of addiction. 

How Funding Tennessee DCS Can Help

With the $78 million being requested by DCS, that money can go towards providing continued care for each and every child who is in the system due to opioid addiction in their families. The goal of DCS workers is to reunite children with their families so that trauma is less and more positive outcomes can occur. However, in order to do that, more money will be required in order to support the growing number of children entering into foster care in Tennessee. 

Do You or a Loved One Need Help with Addiction?

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, you are not alone. At JourneyPure Franklin, our outpatient clinic can help you recover in a safe, comfortable and private setting. Whether you are in need of dual diagnosis treatment or need additional medication-assisted treatment, our experienced staff can help you. Call us today for a private consultation to learn more about our treatment options.