A new initiative might bring together several agencies to work toward a common goal: helping children who have been taken from homes where they were exposed to drug use or drug manufacturing.
Agency representatives who may help with Roswell’s budding Drug Endangered Children’s Coalition met at Grace Community Church, Wednesday, for an all-day training session. The training was meant to expose them to the program and explain the special needs of children taken from environments where illicit drugs can be found.
“We’re trying to provide training to properly respond to children found in homes where parents use (or) distribute drugs,” said Rich Rosky, assistant director of training for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.
Rosky said Wednesday’s training covered three main concepts: an understanding that children in drug homes are victims; that they must be removed immediately from their home environment; and resources must be provided to the children once they’ve been removed.
These resources include a safe environment, a medical evaluation and long-term counseling.
Rosky also said parents in drug homes must be forced to face consequences in the form of child endangerment or abuse charges.
“We want to hold the parents accountable, but more importantly, criminally responsible,” Rosky said. He said parents in these situations should be mandated to undergo drug treatment, “so we can reunite the family down the road.
“If we can create healthier families and eliminate (drug use) as best we can … we’re definitely going to end up with less problems and … safe and healthier kids.”
Ron Mullins, an instructor specialist with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia and a retired state police officer, said he does DECC training around the country.
Mullins said DECC has been active in Artesia for about four years.
“The coalition works very close with the Artesia Police Department in a multi-disciplinary approach,” he said. Mullins said Child Protective Services, prosecutors and those in the medical field, to name a few, come together to meet the needs of children who have been removed from drug homes.
Former Chaves County Commissioner Alice Eppers helped the DECC get started in Roswell. She said members of police departments from surrounding areas — such as Hobbs and Portales — took advantage of the training and attended the event. She said others in attendance included the Roswell Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Office, the Roswell Refuge and members of the Border Patrol, to name a few.
“People … do not realize the drug problem we have,” Eppers said. She said children taken from homes where there is a meth lab are not allowed to take any of their belongings. They must be thoroughly washed, and the clothes they are wearing must be destroyed.
Eppers said the horror for a child in such a situation is compounded by the fact that the child is being taken away from his or her parents.
“We must save the children,” Eppers said. “If (the DECC) serves one child then we’re (doing) a good job.”
Coalition chairwoman Liz Ashby said it was her desire to bring the program — which began in California and now receives national attention — to Roswell. The idea came to her after she decided it was pointless to get her stepchildren —who are grown and well-educated — presents for Christmas as they already have everything they need. Instead, she wanted to donate money to a charitable cause, one that helps children removed from meth homes.
“God put it in my heart to help … children (affected by meth),” Ashby said. She was shocked to see there were no such causes in Roswell. After doing some investigating she came across the Artesia DECC, which she said helped the Roswell coalition get started nine months ago.
“It’s a passionate thing for me,” Ashby said of helping children. “The children are … silent victims.”