Addiction impacts not only the user but the entire family; especially children, according to health officials.
“I’ve historically founds kids who have had overdoses occur in their family including finding the overdosed…deceased adult,” said the Director for the “Kids Like Us” program, Julie-Wood Merchant.
That’s where the “Kids Like Us” program comes in. It is offered through the Frederick County Maryland Health Department. Wood-Merchant says it helps children understand and cope with the substance abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction of a close family member.
“We meet in small of groups of selected children, and we play games. We do expressive art, we do engage them in discussion…and try and make them feel really comfortable, and try and make them feel like kids really,” said Wood-Merchant.
“Kids Like Us” was created in 1988 in response to the crack epidemic. However, Julie says the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic that’s currently going on is even worse. She’s starting to see more cases where children are seeing family members overdose first hand.
“Last week I had four out of about 40 share that they have had overdose experiences at home, and help revive parents, or call 911,” added Wood-Merchant.
The program allows Julie to go and meet with children that attend Frederick County public schools; grades 4- 8. During the summer, she says they meet at the Frederick County Health Department facility. This way, the youth can have year-round support.
“With “Kids Like Us,” kids learn to handle their feelings in safe ways…and how to ask for help. They learn how to feel better about themselves. School counselors report that kids are more healthy…up beat, and feeling more comfortable, and doing better in school,” said Wood-Merchant.
To learn more about the “Kids Like Us” program, visit their website.