WASHINGTON — Heroin and other opioid drugs play a role in nearly half of all child-dependency cases and about 40 percent of cases where parental rights are terminated, according to a recent survey conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office.

In July, Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked all of the assistant attorneys general who handle child abuse and neglect cases to estimate what percentage of their caseload involved opioid abuse. At the time of the survey, the Attorney General’s Office was handling about 6,800 child dependency cases and about 1,100 termination cases, according to an Oct. 10 press release.

“This survey confirms what we long suspected: Opioids have a devastating impact on Washington families,” Ferguson said. “The state must do more to combat this epidemic. Future generations of Washingtonians are at stake.”

Every year, thousands of abused and neglected children are placed in the care of the state by courts. If it’s not safe of possible to reunite a child with his or her parents, the state starts legal proceedings to terminate the parents’ rights. That makes it possible for another family to permanently adopt the child.

Ferguson and others in his agency are pushing for comprehensive reforms that could help bring an end to the current epidemic of opioid abuse in the state. His initiatives includes efforts to document fatal and non-fatal overdoses in real time, curb prescribing of painkillers by dentists and veterinarians, and create resources that can help medical providers identify patients who are “doctor-shopping.”

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