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Opioid epidemic affecting half of Washington’s child care cases


Washington state officials have found another corner of society that is plagued by the opioid epidemic — children.

RELATED: Washington state gets $30 million to fight opioid crisis

According to data from the State Attorney General’s Office, nearly half of Washington’s child-dependency cases involve opioid abuse. Another 39.9 percent of parental rights cases involve opioids, too.

“This survey confirms what we long suspected: Opioids have a devastating impact on Washington families,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “The state must do more to combat this epidemic. Future generations of Washingtonians are at stake.”

The numbers come from an internal survey of state attorneys in July when there was about 6,800 child dependency cases and 1,100 termination cases. A total of 76 attorneys took part in the survey.

Termination cases involve placing a child in care other than with their parent whose parental rights have been terminated. Dependency cases involve a child who is abandoned, abused, or neglected. The survey found that opioid abuse played a role in 47.9 percent of dependency cases, and 39.9 percent of termination cases.

It’s not clear if the numbers are on the rise, but The Seattle Times reports that in King County, the total number of dependency cases grew by 54 percent from 2009 to 2014.

Opioids can be a range of drugs from prescription pain killers to heroin. Attorney General Ferguson has made the opioid epidemic a focus of his office and has promoted legislation to address it.

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