Middlesex officials to help children of overdose victims

By Travis Andersen  |  GLOBE STAFF   

MARCH 09, 2016

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan on Tuesday announced the launch of a program to help children deal with the wrenching experience of having a loved one suffer an opioid overdose.

Project Care (Child Assessment and Response Evaluation) is a collaboration between Ryan’s office, Lowell police, and the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell to provide a “rapid response intervention program” for affected children, Ryan’s office said.

“With Project CARE we are responding to the needs of children, the most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “Through early intervention we are taking a critical step to interrupt the cyclical effects of this crisis.”

The program, which Ryan’s office called a “first-of-its-kind public-private partnership,” will provide services to children whose parent or loved one experiences a fatal or near-fatal overdose.

Project CARE will initially operate in Lowell with the goal of expanding it “throughout Middlesex County and beyond,” said Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for Ryan, in an e-mail.

“The services provided will be unique in each individual case depending on the assessment of the mental health professional, the circumstances, and the needs of the specific child,” Kelly wrote.

Under the program, police, firefighters, and paramedics who respond to an overdose in a home where a child lives will notify the on-call clinical supervisor at the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell, as well as the state Department of Children and Families.

The Mental Health Association will work with DCF, schools, and other partners to coordinate services for the children, the statement said.

Daniel Nakamoto, the Mental Health Association’s executive director, praised the initiative in the statement released by Ryan’s office.

He said his group “applauds District Attorney Ryan and Lowell Police Superintendent [William] Taylor for their vision and leadership on this important initiative. Too often the most innocent victims, the children, are left in the rubble that is the fallout of addiction.”

Taylor said Lowell has been “severely impacted by the opioid epidemic over the last few years; through this initiative we will help the most vulnerable victims of this prevalent problem by helping children of overdose victims receive the services they need to deal with the trauma.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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