SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A local faith-based organization hosted a virtual talk on Tuesday that explored the impacts of addiction on children.
The Savannah Interfaith Addiction and Recovery Coalition and Rabbi Robert Haas of Congregation Mickve Israel invited child therapist Jerry Moe to serve as guest speaker for the discussion, which was livestreamed via Zoom and YouTube.
Moe is the national director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Children’s Program, which provides support, education and care for kids growing up in families dealing with drug or alcohol addiction.
Dozens from the community tuned in to the online event, including local school counselors.
“Imagine the terror of wondering, ‘Is my mom okay? Is she going to be alright?’” said Moe during the discussion as he showed a child’s illustration of two siblings locked out of a room, crying on the floor while their mother got high on the other side of the door.
The presentation showed several more images drawn and colored by kids showing the troubling world of addiction through their young eyes.
One in four children in the United States experience alcohol abuse or drug addiction in their families, according to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration.
Moe shared that children exposed to loved ones going through addiction may suffer from issues like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
“They’re often put in dangerous situations: driving in cars with intoxicated loved ones, going with loved ones to get drugs, being put in really dangerous places with really dangerous people,” the expert said.
He also referenced a study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, which found that children raised in environments of addiction are almost three times more likely to be physically or sexually abused, and over four times more likely to be neglected.
“South Carolina in 1997 did a one-year public service campaign, of which I was a part, that went like this — ‘Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, child abuse: one thing often leads to another,’” Moe said, adding that when it comes to the impact of addiction on families, children are the first to get hurt and the last to receive help.
He shared that despite being “children at risk,” he also views young people in these situations as “children of promise.”
“These are boys and girls of beauty and grace that have inner skills, strength and gifts that just need to come out somehow,” Moe said during the presentation, noting that prevention and early intervention can work in helping these children.
“When the community comes together and works together — law enforcement, mental health, schools, treatment, homeless shelters, the faith community — that’s when we can really make the biggest difference,” he said.
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