The Emerging Public Safety Issue of Treating Drug Endangered Children.

Author:Cruz, Tim
 
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Ten years ago, our office received a call from a guidance counselor at one of our elementary schools. There had been an armed home invasion--a drug rip off--where the burglars hit the wrong apartment in a triple decker. Instead of the third floor, where the drugs and money were, the burglars busted down the second floor door, where a single mom and three children under the age of twelve were sleeping. Unaware that their "intelligence" was off, the burglars drew their guns on the family. After pistol whipping the mother and shoving the oldest child, the burglars realized their mistake and fled--not, however, without leaving a trail of trauma.

Remarkably, the three children showed up to school the next morning, hand-in-hand and on time. The problem was the school and the police never communicated, and the children went unnoticed. A missed opportunity for intervention.

In an effort to close the gaps, and better equip the community to better respond to child victims and witnesses of violence, our office partnered with the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI)--a collaboration of Harvard Law School and the Mass Advocates for Children. TLPI led the training for educators on how to provide trauma-sensitive responses for children exposed to violence, and our office worked with police departments to improve communication with schools. The result was the adoption of the Handle with Care protocol created by the West Virginia Center for Children's Justice. Ten years later, we would return to our previous work as an answer to one of the emerging public safety issues resulting from the opioid crisis--drug endangered children.

I have served as the chief law enforcement official in Plymouth County, Massachusetts for the past 17 years. During my tenure, we have been tireless in our commitment to pursue justice for victims of crime, and prosecute those who take advantage of them. Our work is ever evolving, and this is especially the case with the dramatic increase in substance use disorders and drug-related fatalities, which continue to devastate our families, schools and neighborhoods. There are misconceptions by some who believe those of us working in law enforcement are attempting to arrest our way out of this issue and are targeting for prosecution those suffering from addiction. This could not be further from the truth. At the end of the day, our job is to protect the community and respond to its needs. The science has improved and we in law...

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