SUMNER CO., Tenn. (WKRN) — Mental health disorders, drug abuse, and neglect are some of the most concerning problems experienced by children in homes where drug abuse is prevalent, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
News 2’s Andy Cordan has worked extensively with Sumner County law enforcement to examine overdose cases through the eyes of the responding officers.
Many times, on a call, officers race past little kids who are bewildered by the drama unfolding in front of them.
These children are the quiet innocent victims in opioid epidemic.
While the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be diminishing, the opioid crisis has ramped up. “Yes, this is going strong, and I don’t see any quit in it any time soon,” said Millersville Police Detective Chuck Consiglio.
No zip code is immune from overdoses. And, children are often the unseen victims in these emotional and hectic calls.
Hendersonville Police Commander Scott Ryan said, “[Guardians] They go out and buy a bag of dope out here on the street, and they don’t know what is in it. If they are cutting up their dope on a coffee table and there’s a couple of miniscule grains of that Fentanyl left as a residue, and a 3-year-old comes walking by rubbing his hands… Bam! You just lost your 3-year-old child.”
The numbers reported from Sumner County alone are startling.
According to Sumner County Emergency Management Services, 740 overdoses were reported in 2020. From January to the end of June this year, there were 375 overdose cases reported.
From June 2020 to now Gallatin police report 17 suspected overdose deaths.
“Like a monster, a demon has taken over, that is how the strong the drive is to obtain the drugs,” said Commander Ryan.
Hendersonville Police don’t have numbers for this year, but in 2020 they responded to 14 suspected overdose deaths.
“Often if you have a child from a troubled home, we will have encounters with those persons even later in life as adults,” Commander Ryan added.
Even tiny Millersville is not immune. Most of the time there are children involved in these cases.
Millersville Police report 35 overdose calls in the last 18 months with multiple deaths.
“A lot of people don’t think about it, but these kids are affected the rest of their lives,” said Det. Consiglio.
Law enforcement said there are common denominators in all of these calls: children in homes, silent victims, quiet observers and horrors no child should ever be forced to witness.
News 2’s Andy Cordan asked, “Guys like you, going to save a life in the back bedroom, and on the periphery, you see a 7-year-old perplexed, deer in the headlights… you’ve walked past these kids. What is that like?”
Det. Consiglio answered, “It hurts. You get these kids, they don’t know better. They depend on these adults, who are out here doing drugs in front of these kids. It is a shame they would choose heroin, meth over these kids. It is heartbreaking.”
Cordan continued, “And when does this become regular? You’re in this house, and daddy’s doing heroin.”
“I wish I had the answers,” Det. Consiglio said. “I don’t know what is going through their minds when they are doing that.”
Commander Ryan said officers who respond to these types of situations have compassion for the kids to hopefully ease their trauma. “Our officers are wonderful. They treat these kids on scenes like their own children. If they have to pick them up and hug them, then that is what we do.”
Law enforcement works closely with the Department of Children Services as well as other agencies to get the children help as soon as possible.
DCS told News 2, sometimes children are placed in state’s custody while an investigation is conducted. Other officials said, DCS often works with the family to identify a relative or friend for the children to stay with pending the outcome of the investigation.