A variety of professionals from police to mental health providers are in central Iowa today for the Iowa Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Conference.
“The focus is really on children and how they may be impacted first or second hand from illicit drug activity. From the manufacturing to the sales, to use and in some cases, neglect,” according to Dale Woolery, the interim director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy. Woolery says children can be impacted in ways that sometimes can be easily identified and some that can’t.
“It may be physical abuse, it may be drug misuse or abuse, but sometimes it’s a case of neglect — which isn’t necessarily the intent of anyone to be abusive to child — but the net result is that in some cases you have young children who have to take on the roles of parents where there may be neglect by virtue of drug abuse or drug activity,” according to Woolery. He says they will talk about strategies for dealing with children caught up in these situations.
“The conference won’t get into individual cases so much, but will talk about scenarios and talk about how different drugs might impact families in different ways,” Woolery explains. “A good example would be with changes in marijuana policy in some parts of the nation and discussion about it here in Iowa, there are changes in attitudes on pieces of that.” Cases of opioid addition have dramatically increased in Iowa, and Woolery says it’s an issue that also impacts children.
“When we talk about opioids in the context of children, it’s really educating young children about medicines and their proper use,” he says, “and for the very young, it’s keeping the medicines from them. So, like household cleaners, they can’t get into them.” He says children are the most vulnerable Iowans — but handling cases involving drug endangerment don’t always have easy answers for those working with the kids.
“It’s a struggle, what’s best for the child — which tends to be the number one priority of a lot of the people at this conference — but also what’s best for the family. Which should also be best for the child. Sometimes the short-term answer is different from the long-term,” Woolery says. Some 300 people are expected to attend the conference at the Meadows Convention Center in Altoona.