Across Ohio, children are calling 911 to report overdoses

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A sobbing 9-year-old called 911 Sunday with a horrific report: “My grandmas are on the ground.”

The Dayton girl’s call is the latest episode of children begging Ohio dispatchers for help following an apparent overdose — a tragic, reoccurring phenomenon as the heroin and opioid crisis grips the state and the nation. In March alone, children in Centerville, Cincinnati and Cleveland dialed similar calls — at times with fatal news for authorities.

This time, the young girl handled the dispatcher’s questions between sobs as Dayton police and emergency crews headed to the 900 block of Shroyer Road. Though upset, the girl clearly described the scene.

“I was at my grandmas’ house with my two younger sisters, and I don’t know what happened,” she said, noting her sisters ages 2 years and 2 months were also in the apartment of her grandmother and a live-in girlfriend.

MORE: 9-year-old dials 911 after babysitter, girlfriend overdose

“I just heard them falling down, and the next thing I know, I’m panicking because they’re on the ground,” she said.

Leslie Harbarger, 45, and Angela Benda, 47, were found unresponsive by authorities. One was halfway in the living room near the children. The other was in an area near the kitchen and bathroom.

Police first found the children, though.

“We were greeted at the door by two small children with tears running down their faces,” wrote the reporting Dayton police officer in the incident report.

“Ok, sweetheart, you can tell them that we’re here,” a first responder told the child still on the line with dispatch.

The women were taken to Miami Valley Hospital for treatment, cited for endangering children and issued a summons to appear in court. Montgomery County Children Services was notified about the incident.

MORE: Children find Centerville pilot, wife dead in apparent overdose

Benda reported she ingested one heroin cap, police said. Harbarger denied taking heroin, though the report said she “was known to abuse her prescribed medications.”

The unresponsive women were revived with narcan — a total 28 milligrams, cleaning out the fire crews on scene, according to police.

“It should be noted that fire crews used every dose of narcan they were carrying, and I had to give two doses of my issued narcan,” the reporting officer wrote.

Headlines of children calling authorities on their overdosed caretakers splash newspapers and TV screens across Ohio this month.

MORE: Centerville pilot’s likely overdose raises national safety questions

In Centerville, two of four children aged 9-13 called police on March 16 to report their parents were unresponsive. The Montgomery County Coroner’s office suspects Brian and Courtney Halye overdosed on fentanyl.

“They were very cold,” a 13-year-old boy told the dispatcher while his sisters sobbed in the background. A call from his sister echoed the horror that unfolded in their suburban cul-de-sac home.

In Cincinnati this month, WLWT-TV reported another 9-year-old girl told dispatchers she was "scared" when her parents passed out following a heroin overdose while driving.

“They won’t wake up,” the child said.

Before that, a child in Parma, near Cleveland, called 911 when a parent overdosed, reported March 3. The outlet reported it was the third such incident involving guardians passing out with children in the car that week.


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