Surge in heroin leads to Cleveland court system overwhelmed with child neglect cases

County services are overwhelmed
Posted at 7:15 PM, Oct 21, 2016

The surge of heroin-related cases is overwhelming many public services, including the Ohio Department of Child Protective Services.

The influx seemingly happened overnight. In 2015 the flood gates opened, said Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Magistrate Nancy McMillen.

“My drug court docket has almost doubled this year," McMillen said. "Those of us that have this docket are finding that we’re being overwhelmed and it is getting harder and harder to get the cases in in a timely fashion."

Since 2009, CPS has seen a 19 percent increase in new cases, or roughly 2,000 new kids.

“They aren’t looking at their parents as addicts or bad people, these are their parents and they love them,” McMillen said.

CPS case workers are enduring the biggest impact. The state recommends that case workers have no more than 12 cases at a time. In Cuyahoga County, they average 14 cases at a time. In Portage County, that number is 17.

“Our community has so many resources that we are putting forward to address the heroin epidemic,” said Linda Johanek, the CEO of the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center.

Taxpayers are footing the bill. More cases means more money. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on child neglect cases around the state. Many are tied to heroin.

“When children are neglected, or abused, or left alone for a period of time, the impact is great,” Johanek said.