Tennessee updates laws to protect drug endangered children

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Starting this month there are changes to Tennessee’s laws to protect drug endangered children, which is an issue the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been working to address over the past several years.

This month marks one year since three-year-old Paris Wilcox was found unresponsive at a home on Saddlecreek Way in Antioch. That girl died at a hospital in Smyrna from acute fentanyl intoxication. Her 24-year-old mother, Prestina Clark-Wilcox, is now charged in her death

“The accidental exposures – the good thing is we don’t see a lot of those – but here’s the sad reality to it: it doesn’t take a lot to be an issue. It only takes one,” said TBI Special Agent in Charge, Tommy Farmer. 

In October 2019, 9-month-old Kayden Goldthreate died at a home on Willow Branch Drive in Nashville. Metro Police said his father Phuoc Nguyen, a heroin user, is charged after the baby ingested the highly lethal drug fentanyl while in his custody. 

“I think it’s great that we’re looking out for and trying to get folks into treatment and off these drugs. We think that’s awesome, but we also think it’s important for those potential silent victims out there,” Farmer said. 

He works to help these silent victims of the drug epidemic as the head of the state’s Dangerous Drugs Task Force. He said the issue of drug endangered children is so present that the state’s laws were updated just this month to address the problem. 

“We had specific statutes with meth, as it was being manufactured, that there were certain elements of harm that the process of manufacturing would expose these children to certain hazards,” Farmer said. 

The legislation that went into effect July 1, increases the penalty against people who knowingly expose children to dangerous drugs like fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

“It updates because as we know, some of the controlled substances, and what we’re dealing with now. Predominantly fentanyl, schedule one and schedule two controlled substances, it updates the statute. Unfortunately, that’s just the world we’re living in right now where we require something to be updated,” Farmer said.

He elaborated that it isn’t just fentanyl that’s posing a problem for drug endangered children, but it’s any drug that’s on trend for addicts, including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. 

“We’re fearful down the road that as we’re seeing compounding, oil extractions, indoor grows, and those are other factors that could affect children or that children are exposed to,”  Farmer said. 

He added that he’s glad to see the work being done to save children who are exposed to drugs, but it’s all far from over. 

“Children being lower to the ground, being a growing young developing person, they were more susceptible,” Farmer said. “We have an addiction issue. I think we’re making a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go to deal with the root cause, and the root cause is not a short term fix.”

The parents mentioned in this story have court appearances in Nashville later this month and in September.

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