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Judge says he’s seeing more children traumatized by parent drug use

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IONIA COUNTY, Mich. -- With heroin and methamphetamine reaching epidemic levels statewide, Ionia County Probate Judge Robert Sykes says he's seeing more children traumatized by parent drug use.

"They're terrible cases because the children always lose," said Judge Sykes.

Child protection cases Judge Sykes presides at Ionia Probate Court are increasingly involving heroin and meth use. Tuesday at Judge Sykes told Ionia County Commissioners he's seeing a spike in traumatized children.

Judge Sykes defended the county's Childcare Fund which is under budget, totaling $1.3 million and funded by the state and county, saying this helps pay for these children's out of home services.

"Many times children are removed and placed in foster home placement," said Judge Sykes. "Often times one or two counties away, being taken out of their schools, they're being removed from their friends, sometimes removed from siblings and it's because of the parents' drug problem. And it is an epidemic, there's no doubt."

The thread sewing almost all cases together Judge Sykes says again is prevalent parental drug use, namely heroin and meth.

According to data from the Michigan Resident Inpatient Files, in 2014 across 10 West Michigan Counties (Region 6 as pictured) 102 of 18,826 babies were born addicted to opioids or neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Michigan babies born addicted to opioids It's a vicious cycle of abuse Judge Sykes says incarceration typically does not end.

“Locking someone up in prison isn't going to overcome the addiction," he said.

Part of the solution is reaching out for help, says Chief Executive Officer of The Right Door, formerly Ionia County Community Mental Health Services, Robert Lathers.

"Help is here," said Lathers. "It's about finding a place to share your story.”

Other than wanting more inpatient care within the county, Judge Sykes says The Right Door is helping break the cycle of abuse.

"People repeat what they've learned in their parenting experiences," said Lathers. "It's very difficult to change it and do something different; that can be done but people tend to repeat what's happened to them as children. And that's where we have to make the interventions with children and families to stop that."

If you need someone to talk to or are looking for mental health services, call The Right Door at: 1-888-527-1790.


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