Social workers impacted by the opioid epidemic

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-10 08:49:51-04

Heroin overdoses are skyrocketing across the U.S., especially here in Ohio.

Nearly half a dozen people are likely to die from the drug. And now, kids are getting their hands on it, with dangerous consequences.

Already this year, at least four Ohio children have overdosed. Three of them live in Northeast Ohio.

The first people often called when that happens? The county social worker.

"The most difficult is managing everything that is thrown at you, it's a pretty unpredictable job," said Lauren Brown, an Intake Case Worker at Summit County Children Services.

Brown is constantly putting out fires and working with families in some of their most traumatic and vulnerable stages.

Already there this year, a two-year-old overdosed in Akron, and a one-year-old died after getting his hands on heroin.

Though not her specific cases, social workers like Brown are the ones called in the minutes after it happens. Their job is talking to family members, checking on the children and finding a safe place for them to stay if necessary.

Brown admits it can be emotionally taxing, as workers balance the need to be compassionate with the need to care for the children, and to take care of business.

Brown, like many other social workers, has 15 or more cases to work on at a time.

“Cases are becoming more complex than they have in the past, and so I think being able to make the best decisions in order to make sure that we're continuing to focus on our agencies mission…looks a little bit different now,” she said.

Brown also says right now it is rare for children to overdose on drugs, but says it brings to light the impact this epidemic is having on children.