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New Children and Families Department policy aims to protect children from fentanyl overdoses

The Connecticut Department of Children and Families is changing the way social workers handle cases in an effort to protect children amid a spike in fentanyl overdoses.

News 12 Staff

Oct 25, 2022, 9:23 PM

Updated 601 days ago

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The Connecticut Department of Children and Families is changing the way social workers handle cases in an effort to protect children amid a spike in fentanyl overdoses.
The department says at least eight children under the age of 2 have died from accidental fentanyl overdoses since 2020.
New DCF guidance implemented this week triggered a meeting of interdisciplinary experts within hours of a caseworker finding fentanyl in the home.
"The notion of children ingesting or coming in contact with something that is so lethal really caused us as a department to have to look at our practices to see if we have to kick things up a notch,” says Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes. "Legal department, our clinical department, our medical personnel within the department, and anyone else that can help make that assessment more robust."
Dorantes says the DCF will emphasize support and education in interventions, removing children from their homes only if necessary.
“Really trying to build up those community resources to keep kids safe in-community, but there are times we have to remove children and we do so cautiously,” she says.
John Hamilton is the CEO of Liberation Programs and chairs the advisory board for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He worries that the fear of losing their children could keep some mothers out of treatment.
"If a woman feels like they're going to ask for help and they have small children, the last thing we want them to believe is they're going to lose their child,” Hamilton says. "We have to look at it more from a childproofing, taking prudent measures, instead of just honing in on this fentanyl issue."
State officials and advocates agree that education about Narcan use and safe storage are the most effective tools.
"Particularly adult-use substances, even over the counter medication should be out of the reach of children,” Hamilton says. "If they're out there using substances, we want them to reduce harm for themselves and reduce risks to their children and their family and we'll give them whatever information necessary to have that happen."
DCF officials say overdoses happen through ingestion, not skin contact, and children under the age of 5 are most at risk.


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