DHS: Kids Harmed by Opioid Epidemic

Feb 24, 2017

Iowa’s laws on drug-endangered children would be updated to address the state’s opioid epidemic under legislation the House and Senate are considering.  

Authorities say more kids are being affected by their caregivers’ abuse of painkillers.  

Currently, Iowa’s child protection policies focus heavily on methamphetamine, its manufacture, distribution, and use.    

“These policies are being reformatted and changed to really recognize that there is a very big opioid epidemic,” said Janee Harvey,  

The new legislation would require a child abuse investigation if a family comes to the attention of DHS with evidence of cocaine, heroin, or opioid use.   Currently it’s meth that triggers the probe.   

Also, if an infant shows signs of withdrawal from a legal drug such as painkillers or alcohol, authorities would be notified.   

That would not, however, trigger an abuse investigation.

“We would be going in to basically knock on the door and assess the family to see what services they need and be creating a corresponding plan of safe care for the caregiver and the child,” Harvey said

Currently, mandatory child abuse reporters who see evidence of drugs in infants are only required to report if illegal drugs are involved.

The legislation is the work of a task force on drug-endangered kids.  

The bill also expands protection for children living in homes where drugs are used, sold, or manufactured, even if the activity does not occur in the presence of a child.

The legislation is the work of a task force on drug-endangered kids.   

“What drove me to get involved was there was a four year old that tested positive for meth in Jasper County,” said Sen. Chaz Allen (D-Newton.)  “So I took the initiative to get the bill passed last year to study this."

Some advocacy groups worry the legislation could become punitive on mothers.

“We would like to see some language added to encourage mothers to seek substance abuse treatment without fear of punishment to alleviate the problem,” said Emily Piper with the March of Dimes Iowa chapter.