County drug problem affecting children

LISBON – Columbiana County’s growing adult drug problem is exacting a toll from their children, according to the director of the county Department of Job and Family Services.

Eileen Dray-Bardon attended last week’s county commission meeting to discuss Child Abuse Prevention Month activities and told them how more and more Children Services cases are related to drug abuse.

“Five years ago not even 5 percent of the cases came in were due to drug abuse,” she said. Dray-Bardon estimates now more than 20 percent of their investigations “involve drug abuse of some kind.”

Children Services is finding a growing number of cases involve infants testing positive for drugs, and investigators are now removing children when their parents are incapable of properly caring for them because they are frequently high on drugs or “cooking” meth in the home. Dray-Bardon said they recently took custody of children whose parents had “lost touch with reality” because of their drug habit.

Children Services handled an average of 43 drug-related child abuse/neglect calls per month in 2013, which represented 21 percent of all cases referred for investigation.

After passing a proclamation acknowledging April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, commissioners approved entering into a contract with Callos Companies in Youngstown to help administer the federally funded summer youth employment program on behalf of the JFS.

Dray-Bardon said the county’s allocation this year is $427,000, but like in past years the JFS intends to apply for unused allocations from other counties, which will mean more jobs and hours for youths who participate in the program.

“We’re still hopeful to be able to do that,” she said.

Participants must be between 16 and 24 years old and have not earned more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($23,340 for individuals, $47,700 for a household of four).

Approximately 240 youths were employed last summer, working between 32 and 40 hours per week for 53 private and public employers who agree to participate. The youths are paid $8 an hour.

Commissioner Mike Halleck said they were one of the employers who have participated in the program. “This has worked out well for the county. We got the dog pound painted last year,” he said.

Finally, commissioners approved granting 2 percent pay raises in 2014 and 2015 for Dray-Bardon’s 28 non-union administrative employees, who will see their share of monthly insurance premium payments increase from 6 percent to 7 percent. She said this is in keeping pace with recent changes in the compensation package for union employees. She is among those receiving a 2 percent raise.