The State of Iowa has a new trailer it can take to the scene of meth labs to decontaminate any kids who’ve been exposed to dangerous chemicals. Bill Vaughn, the chief deputy of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, says officials have often had to put kids who’ve been exposed to drugs in the backseat of a patrol car — after finding some make-shift place to change the child’s clothes. “There’s been a big gap for us for a number of years now in being able to manage on-scene incidents,” Vaughn says. “Nothing’s more frustrating for investigators to roll up on a scene and to encounter these kids who are in these tough environments who need intervention and not have the tools to decontaminate (the kids) and to deal with the situation effectively.” Polk County Attorney John Sarcone says so far this year in Iowa’s largest county, 229 children have been removed from a home where drugs were being made. “And so we have to have a way to decontaminate them and do it in a way that…shows them some protection,” Sarcone says. He says this new trailer will provide that safe place. There’s a shower to rinse off any drug residue; new, clean clothes for the kids; televisions and toys — even a microwave and refrigerator to provide food for the kids. The trailer will be housed in central Iowa, but Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement chief Ken Carter says it will go wherever it’s needed in the state. “I would like to say we won’t have to use it too much, but unfortunately I’m sure we will,” Carter says. Jennifer Sleiter is a nurse practitioner who is in charge the regional child protection center at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. “So far this year we’ve seen 160 new drug-exposed children and that has already exceeded the number of children that we saw all of last year,” Sleiter says. “The need is still definitely there.” Sleiter says kids in a home where drugs are either being made or used can have serious health problems. “There’s a risk of respiratory problems. There could be severe eye or skin irritations…There’s also a possibility of liver complications,” she says. “We also see in these homes whether there’s a lab or just parents (who) are using drugs a chance for neglect and there’s also a chance for higher incidents of sexual abuse and physical abuse.” The trailer and what’s inside cost about 21-thousand dollars. About half of that came from the federal government and Prairie Meadows gave a 10-thousand dollar grant for the project. Only one other state has such a trailer.
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