Southern Illinois groups undergo training to better protect kids endangered by drugs


Dozens of agencies from around southern Illinois were in Carterville Thursday to undergo training to help drug endangered children. The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children was there for the day to educate different groups on how to better work together to better help at risk kids.

The growing use of opioids and prescription drugs is a problem in Williamson County and across the country. It’s continuing to grow, while the use of other drugs such as methamphetamine remains high, according to Deputy Brian Murrah with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s not everywhere we go, but it’s common,” Murrah said. “We can show you houses where law enforcement — whether its city police departments or the sheriff’s office being called — because there are drug problems in the house. And a lot of times, there are kids in the house also.”

He said it’s often not an easy issue to track. Typically, when they’re responding to calls, it’s not directly for a drug-related charge. But, he said that doesn’t mean drugs or opioids aren’t involved in some way.

“We’re in a spot where a lot of times, when we’re called to address family-oriented problems, drugs have been a big part of the problem. It’s absolutely a presence here,” Murrah said.  He said they do their best to work with groups around the community to better serve the kids and families going through tough times, and the sheriff’s department doesn’t hesitate to get DCFS involved when need be.

But, he said, community outreach to help kids needs to grow and expand.

Thursday, law enforcement agencies, schools, child advocacy groups and churches came together to learn how to better protect abused or neglected kids living in homes where drugs are used or sold. Stacee Read and Eric Nation presented to the group about the Drug Endangered Children, or DEC, approach to helping kids. Read said they need to find a way to address the issue as a community or things will be missed and kids will get hurt.

“Collect the information, pass it along to somebody else, provide an intervention. Let that child know they actually mean something, because when we don’t intervene with these children we’re basically telling them they weren’t worth it. They weren’t even worth our phone call,” Read said.

Sharing examples with the group, Nation shared a story from his time in law enforcement: After making a drug bust where the daughter had reported it, he didn’t tell the child welfare groups not to place the daughter in the custody of the grandmother, who was a conspirator in the father’s drug ring. Nation said it still haunts him, because the daughter went to live with the grandmother and was involved in the drug ring when she was older. He said what happened there needs to be held up as an example of how a simple a phone call or conversation with different groups can help kids avoid bad situations where drugs are involved.

They’re hoping that teaching groups to create a network by collaborating with other agencies around southern Illinois will allow communities to better protect kids and prevent them from falling through the cracks.

“The more people can get together and network and get together for the benefit of the kids, that’s a worthy goal,” Murrah said. He said there’s no way to know if something like this can help break the cycle of kids getting sucked into drugs and bad life circumstances, but he said he hopes it can help in some way.


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