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Tioga County focuses on keeping children at home while battling opioid crisis

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Newsrooms across the commonwealth have spent years documenting the opioid crisis in their own communities. But now, in the special project State of Emergency: Searching for Solutions to Pennsylvania’s Opioids Crisis, we are marshalling resources to spotlight what Pennsylvanians are doing to try to reverse the soaring number of overdose deaths.

WITF is releasing more than 60 stories, videos and photos throughout July. This week, you will find stories about initial response and how addition affects families.

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FILE- Naloxone at Susquehanna Township EMS. In Tioga County, youth caseworkers and police go to homes to best judge the living situation and try to keep families together. (Brett Sholtis/Transforming Health)


The Tioga County Department of Human Services is trying to keep families together while at the same time battling the opioid crisis.

“Our goal is to keep the kids in the home,” said Nancy Clemens, the department’s administrator.

Through the cooperation of law enforcement throughout the county in northcentral Pennsylvania, a children and youth caseworker is dispatched when police are sent to a home in which someone under the age of 18 lives, she said.

The police call could be for drug use, meth lab or just a loud party, she said. Quick response by a caseworker serves as early intervention, Clemens said.

The caseworker will assess the safety of the child including parental protective capacities, she said. Parents are involved in the assessment if they are available and in the proper state of mind, she said.

If both parents are taken into custody, then grandparents or other relatives may be invited to stay with the children or take them to their home, she said.

Schools are notified so their staff is aware if a student is not acting normally a day after an incident, she said.

The intervention effort led by the Tioga County Opioid Coalition has dramatically improved coordination among agencies and schools, Clemens says.

Through the initiative “we have kids in homes that wouldn’t be in homes” and their care is not under the direction of the court, she said.

The ability to get into the home allows staff to reach more people because not all those who overdose end up going to a hospital, she said.

Clemens estimates children and youth respond to a home about once a month. It is nothing like it was a year ago when there were 18 calls in two days, she said.

That is when 51 overdose patients were treated by UPMC Susquehanna within a 48-hour period at its Williamsport Regional Medical Center and Soldiers and Sailors Hospital in Wellsboro.

More than a dozen of the overdoses were treated at the hospital in Wellsboro.

Those living in the southern part of Tioga County tend to travel to Williamsport for their drugs while those in the northern part cross into New York State to do their buying, Clemens said.

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