|January 17, 2013
Child Protective Services reports rise in meth related referrals
By Alyssa Nenemay
(L-R) Trish Kinley, Kaetie Brown, Carmelita Matt, Lena Tewawina, and Constance Morigeau of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Social Services Department met with Tribal Council to discuss the impact of children exposed to meth in the womb. (Photo by Alyssa Nenemay)
PABLO — Members of the Tribal Social Services Department (TSSD) met with Tribal Council to report a significant rise in meth related referrals to Child Protective Services on the Flathead Reservation.
The program has reported 81 meth related referrals in 2012, a significant leap from the 31 cases reported for 2011. The findings have shown an emphasis on this past December, which accounted for 16 of the cases.
“We heard there was a huge shipment of meth to the reservation during December and our numbers are showing that,” said TSSD Department Head Constance Morigeau. “Over the past month we have had five newborns referred to us because of meth. Three were born early and two are on Morphine drips.”
Morigeau and members of her Department suggested to Tribal Council that there be a modification to the current Confederated Salish and Kootenai Laws particularly the Children’s Code.
“We would like to see that there be more authority when it comes to expectant mothers. When it comes to substance abuse, intervention needs to take place while the child is in the womb. At this point our code does not specify whether a fetus is legally recognized as a child,” said Morigeau.
To cement the importance of early intervention, the group reported that long-term effects of children who were exposed to narcotics in the womb could be threaded throughout a lifetime.
“Life is hard for all of us, but there are more hurdles for these children because of their disabilities from being exposed to narcotics in the womb,” said Morigeau. “These children display aggressive behavior as they get older, their language and athletic abilities are behind by age 14, and they are more likely to show behavioral and emotional disturbances.”
Tribal Health and Human Services department head Kevin Howlett took a moment to discuss the effects of meth within the local tribal community.
“Meth has reached an epidemic level in our community. The laws we do have allow those caught with drug paraphernalia to walk. When we look down the road at this problem we’re talking about million dollar babies. We may need to look into a rehabilitation center for this reservation. Is it going to cost money? Absolutely. But you’re going to spend the money anyway in health care costs for these children,” he said.
Tribal Council suggested that Morigeau and the TSSD take their findings to an upcoming department head meeting to gain further feedback on finding solutions. “This issue effects all of our tribal departments. This effects everything we are as people,” said tribal chairman Joe Durglo.
In closing, Morigeau reiterated what is stated under the current CSKT Law children’s code:
“’Tribal children are the Tribes' most important resource and their welfare is of paramount importance to the Tribes,’” she said. “These children are going to be our leaders one day. They truly are our most important resource and we need to protect them.”