BOB RINEARSON: Christmas must be a call to action on opioid problems

Robert Rinearson

The image of children in need is always highlighted this time of year. The bell ringers for the Salvation Army endure the cold wishing everyone that passes by a Merry Christmas, even to those who refuse to donate. Police officers are busy, giving up their free time to provide the children of struggling families the essentials. Our churches and their members open up their doors as well as their arms to bring comfort to the weary and needy, all in the name of He whose birth we celebrate.

But our community is experiencing an ever-growing populace of children whose needs go beyond shelter, food and clothing. They are the children of the addicted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400 percent since 1999, compared to 265 percent among men.” And according to The U.S. News and World Report, the age group that experienced the highest number of deaths by drug overdoses was the 45 to 54 age group. But not far behind are those between the ages of 25 to 34 who came in second. Meaning those who are most likely to be having and raising young children.

Our court systems are filled with young addicted adults who, because of their dependencies, have pushed the daily needs of their children off into some drug-fogged corner. It is not unusual to find children in homes, in a drug house or in a car where the parent lies unconscious, or maybe even dead, due to their uncontrolled urges.

Our systems are already over-filled with the young who have been victimized due to abuse and neglect. But, by all indications, it is going to get worse — much worse. All because of the current opioid epidemic. Too many children are starved from the lack of attention and support that only a parent can offer. According to the experts, these children exist in homes where uncertainty and chaos exists. And, according to a report put out by The Promises Treatment Centers, “Addicted parents often blame their children for their own problem saying that if only kids would stop fighting among themselves, do better in school or keep the house clean they would not be driven to take drugs. Unfortunately, children are only too willing to accept responsibility for the addiction of their parents.”

And as the children grow, a hostility will eventually set in toward the parent, perhaps even resulting in the child’s own self-destructive behaviors.

Christmas is traditionally a time for family, self-reflection and prayer. Donations to proven charities is still a must. But with the growing opiate and heroin epidemic, more is needed. We cannot count on this Grim Reaper not coming to our own front doors.

This Christmas must also be a time for educating ourselves to this problem. This Christmas time must also be a call for action.

Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne.