JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In Nashville, one of the topics on the mind of lawmakers is what to do with the upcoming generation of children from families suffering from drug and opioid abuse preparing to enter school, according to Senator Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.
Senator Crowe told News Channel 11’s Blake Lipton lawmakers will be trying to figure out how to deal with these children behaviorally, educationally and socially in a supportive manner this coming year.
“We have a whole new generation of kids now that are getting ready to go to Pre-K and Kindergarten and they’re moving from those families that had those problems,” said Crowe.
Sen. Crowe said shaping treatment and support of children coming from families with drug addiction will take a collaborative effort from a number of state agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Health and the governor’s office.
“Obviously, the legislature needs to have the discussion so that we can make sure that all of us in Nashville are on track realizing these kids are just now coming to our school systems and it could be a very disruptive situation if we don’t act quickly,” he said.
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can stem from family members who are addicted to drugs or other substances.
Crowe said addressing ACEs will be a key component, as $2 million dollars is already allocated from the legislature to provide funding for grants.
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth seeks to improve systems and support child advocates and providers who deal with ACEs.
“The Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City was one of our first to receive grants and they have trained all of their staff to recognize and help students that are there,” said Jill Stott, Northeast Regional Coordinator for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
According to the Sycamore Institute, over half of adult Tennesseans reported at least one adverse childhood experience between 2014 and 2017. About 17-percent had experienced four or more.
Families Free is an alcohol and drug treatment facility that works primarily with women and their families in Johnson City, Elizabethton, Kingsport and Mountain City.
Executive Director Lisa Tipton said the effects children can show when they grow up in a chaotic environment around addiction are multi-faceted.
“They range everywhere from emotional struggles, to behavioral struggles to academics struggles,” said Tipton, “but one of the biggest things that we see is they grow up in what many people would call the ‘fight or flight mentality.'”
At this time, it is unclear what specific treatment or support lawmakers plan to roll out for these future students.
Tipton said Families Free uses a number of services to help families with drug and opioid problems.
“We do group therapy at Families Free, we have individual therapy, parenting classes and a new program that started called Celebrating Families, where we bring the whole family unit together,” said Tipton.
Sen. Crowe said he believes we will see a lot of different legislation this year related to this topic.