OSU Study: Neighborhoods with more opioid overdoses have more child abuse | Messages

Ohio neighborhoods with more opioid overdoses also have higher rates of child abuse, according to a new study from Ohio State University’s College of Social Work.

Using 9,231 Ohio census block groups that served as surrogate neighborhoods, the study examined every case in 2015 in which an emergency services worker used naloxone to stop an opioid overdose, including from prescription pills to heroin to fentanyl .

The study found that Ohio neighborhoods with higher rates of naloxone use also had higher referral rates for child welfare investigations and higher substantiation for reports of child abuse and neglect.

The study highlights the fact that the opioid crisis is affecting not only those who overdose, but also children, according to OSU professor Bridget Freisthler, study author and associate dean for research at the College of Social Work.

“It really speaks to the need for more prevention and finding out what’s going on in these neighborhoods and providing the support upfront,” Freishler told Ideastream Public Media.

“The child care system is very reactive. And unfortunately, this responsiveness means we wait for something else bad to happen before intervening in the family. But you can do preventive services, which is really about wrapping supports around the family,” Freishler added.

Focusing on the problem at the neighborhood level allows for a “finer, geographic scope” in which intervention and prevention efforts could be implemented, she said.

“If you try to do prevention at the county level, it will spread. And what often happens is it goes to these bigger places,” Freishler said. “So it’s going to go to the bigger towns in the county. It won’t necessarily go to those smaller, more rural locations. And that makes you look at it and say, ‘Okay, this is where overdoses happen.’”

According to Freishler, the data showed that in general, Ohio’s Appalachian communities were the hardest hit by opioid abuse.

The study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Freishler is conducting related studies, including one focusing on the impact of the pandemic on opioid abuse in Ohio.

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