March 8th, 2016
District Attorney Ryan Announces Project C.A.R.E. to Provide Rapid Response Intervention for Children Who Experience Opioid-Related Trauma
WOBURN – Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan today announced the launch of Project C.A.R.E. (Child Assessment and Response Evaluation) a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership to provide immediate services to children who experience opioid-related trauma.
The unprecedented pilot program is a partnership between the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the Lowell Police Department and the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell to provide a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week rapid response intervention program for children who witness a parent or loved one suffer an overdose. The goal is to help these children cope with trauma, build resiliency and decrease the likelihood that substance abuse will be transferred from one generation to the next.
“With Project C.A.R.E. we are responding to the needs of children, the most vulnerable victims of the opioid epidemic,” said District Attorney Ryan. “Through early intervention we are taking a critical step to interrupt the cyclical effects of this crisis.”
Research indicates that almost all children experience acute distress immediately after exposure to a traumatic life event. Early intervention can be critical for traumatized children by allowing them to get back on a normal developmental path. Without intervention, their symptoms are likely to worsen.
This innovative initiative also recognizes the impact that frequent exposure to opioid abuse has on a child’s ability to develop resiliency factors, and seeks to mitigate the increased risk of transferring addiction across generational lines.
According to the program model, first responders to an incident where a child witnesses the death of a parent or immediate family member; a near overdose death; or a death that occurs in a home with a child - even if the child is not present - will follow new procedures to ensure intervention at the earliest possible point.
“The Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell applauds District Attorney Ryan and Lowell Police Superintendent Taylor for their vision and leadership on this important initiative,” said Executive Director Daniel Nakamoto. “Too often the most innocent victims, the children, are left in the rubble that is the fallout of addiction.”
“The City of Lowell has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic over the last few years; through this initiative we will help the most vulnerable victims of this prevalent problem by helping children of overdose victims receive the services they need to deal with the trauma,” added Superintendent Taylor.
In addition to the Lowell Police Department, partners from the Lowell Fire Department and the city's three EMS providers: Trinity EMS, Pridestar EMS and Lowell General Hospital Advanced Life Support/Paramedics who respond to the scene where a child is present will notify the on-call clinical supervisor at the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell, as well as file a 51A report with the Department of Children and Families. Initially, the case will be triaged remotely by the clinical supervisor who will determine the course of action needed during the first 48 hours. The Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell will then communicate and coordinate, as needed, with the Department of Children and Families, the local schools and other partners.
The city of Lowell has been especially hit hard by the opioid epidemic, experiencing a 180% increase in overdose deaths between 2014 and 2015. According to data collected by Trinity Emergency Medical Service, the city’s primary EMS provider, the median age of an overdose victim in Lowell last year was 35, a prime age for being a parent of young children. Data from this program will be collected and evaluated by the Division of Public Health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s College of Health Sciences.