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Higher child abuse reports correlate with parents’ drug use

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Suspected child abuse or neglect cases were up last year across the north country, in part the result of increased synthetic drug use by parents.

The Lewis County Department of Social Services fielded a 23 percent increase in calls for suspected cases for the year.

“I don’t know if we can pinpoint a specific reason for the increase,” said Director of Services Jennifer L. Jones, who added that “we had a surge in the summer due to legal funk,” or synthetic drugs.

Lewis County Undersheriff James M. Monnat confirmed that surge.

“It seems we had a lot of problems when synthetic drugs were legal,” he said.

Calls to DSS increased with concerns about parents who were using the products.

“It puts them in danger of not being able to take care of their children,” Mr. Monnat said.

Because of the increase, three “overflow” caseworkers were assigned to assist the four caseworkers in child protective services.

“It was quite an overwhelming year for us,” Mrs. Jones said.

In August, the Lewis County Board of Legislators voted unanimously to ban the possession or sale of chemical substances or compounds known as synthetic cocaine and marijuana.

“We absolutely had a dramatic decrease in calls” following the ban, Mr. Monnat said, though he credited public awareness and users’ experience with the drugs as other causes for the reduction.

“People were seeing what the drug did to them,” he said.

Jefferson County DSS experienced a 6 percent increase in calls for the year.

“August was probably our highest,” said Teresa W. Gaffney, director of services. “Then it started to dip.”

St. Lawrence County DSS received an 8.2 percent rise in calls last year.

Deputy Commissioner Dianne S. Wilby said, “Our increase in numbers is drug related, but not just synthetic drugs.”

Marijuana use, as well as the abuse of prescription drug Suboxone, used for opiate detox and maintenance, “resulted in a lot of calls,” Ms. Wilby said.

Misuse of Suboxone was seen as a result of illegal street purchases of the drug and “shopping from doctor to doctor,” she said.

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