Clark County experts: Overdoses traumatic for children

Children who witness overdoses experience trauma, Clark County experts said, and need mental health assessments and treatment.

A parent in an overdose situation is clearly in a crisis and might appear dead, said Pam Meermans, deputy director of the Family and Children Services Division at Clark County Job and Family Services. That will have an impact on children.

“When that parent is in that life-threatening situation, it’s probably one of the most acutely traumatic events a child could witness,” Meermans said.

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A Clark County woman recently pleaded guilty to child endangerment after allegedly overdosing with children present.

Tiffany D. Parker, 28, pleaded guilty last week to one charge of child endangerment. She previously faced two charges but one was dismissed.

Springfield Police responded Jan. 18 to a home in the 900 block of North Fountain Avenue about a possible overdose, according to court documents.

A neighbor heard knocking at his door and when he answered, two small children told him her father was on the phone and he wanted to speak to him. The neighbor took the phone and the father asked him to go to the apartment and check on Parker because she was in the bathroom and allegedly not responding when the children tried to get her attention.

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The neighbor went to the apartment and knocked on the locked bathroom door, according to the report. He broke the door down after knocking for several minutes and not getting a response.

He allegedly found Parker unresponsive, bent over the tub, which was full and water was still running, police said.

That’s a traumatic scene for a child, Meermans said.

“Complex trauma and chronic trauma, that’s multiple forms of trauma at vulnerable stages of our development that can really stay with us for a lifetime,” she said.

Her agency has provided services to families where an adult caregiver has had an overdose or has an heroin addiction.

They will try to help the child and family receive a mental health evaluation and therapy. They want to reduce the risk of trauma as much as possible.

“If the caregiver is unable to provide safety for his or her kids, then yes, we do become involved and what we try to do is get those kids with other appropriate safe family members. It’s minimizing their trauma,” she said. “They’ve already been really traumatized. We don’t want the trauma of putting them in formalized foster care if we do not have to.”

Parker will be sentenced on Thursday, April 12. She faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. She must show proof that she has been or is receiving treatment when she returns.

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