Impact of opioid crisis on TN Department of Children’s Services

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — From marijuana to meth to opioids, Amy Coble and her staff have seen it all when it comes to doing home visits where drugs may be involved.

“We’ve been in homes where paraphernalia has been out in front of us when we walk in the door,” Coble said.

“Sometimes it’s well-hidden,” Coble said. “Sometimes it’s hidden in different areas.”

Coble is the director of investigations for the Department of Children’s Services.

Like many other agencies, DCS is feeling the impact of the opioid crisis.

“It impacts their brain function, their decision making, their judgment,” Coble said.

Coble says the agency is seeing a spike in its number of drug-exposed child referrals which are calls about children possibly being exposed to drugs at home.

“We’ve seen it highly, highly impact families,” Coble said. “And, it’s not just the mother, it’s the fathers and all their caregivers, their family members, their friends.”

In Rutherford County, drug-exposed child referrals are climbing.

In 2017, the county had 991 referrals, 1,073 in 2018, and so far this year, 1021, according to Coble.

“Sometimes we remove the children,” she said. “Sometimes we are able to place them with relatives or loved ones.”

Coble says they’ve had to make adjustments like providing extra training for caseworkers on substance abuse and shifting staff to handle extra referrals.

She says the uptick has also led to a need for more foster parents.

“It affects everybody,” Coble said. “It’s very heartbreaking.”

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