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Mom Overdoses as Two-Year-Old Looks On--a US Reality more Common than You'd Think

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    View attachment 52523 It was a horrific video — a young mother who had overdosed was lying unconscious on the floor of a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass. Adding a gut-wrenching kick to the scene was that the woman’s 2-year-old daughter, wearing purple footie pajamas, was tugging at her mother’s limp arm, trying to wake her up. The girl was wailing. The mother looked lifeless.

    A store employee recorded the scene while waiting for medics. When they arrived, they revived the mother and took her and her daughter to a hospital. The video, which became public two days later, spread across the internet.

    Sadly, the police said, the opioid epidemic in New England and elsewhere has reached such proportions that it is no longer a shock to see drug users collapse in public. In Massachusetts, more than four people a day die from drug overdoses.

    What is new, they said, is that addicts are increasingly buying drugs, getting high and passing out with their children in tow.

    The Lawrence police estimate that children are now present in perhaps 10 percent of the drug calls to which they respond.

    “It’s just a horrifying byproduct of this opiate crisis,” said Thomas Cuddy, a special assistant to Police Chief James Fitzpatrick of Lawrence.

    In New Hampshire, heroin was identified as a risk factor in 7.62 percent of investigations of child neglect this year through April, according to the state Division for Children, Youth and Families; that is up from 4.8 percent from October to December 2014.

    Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services in Massachusetts, said more and more children were coming to the attention of the child welfare system as parents bought drugs or overdosed in front of them.

    “Children are as much the victims of what we’re seeing in this epidemic,” she said. “It’s a poignant reminder that our interventions have to be broader than just treatment for the individual but have to include loved ones, especially children.”

    In the Lawrence case, just as social media was heaping scorn on the mother who overdosed, Mandy McGowen, the video galvanized a network of mothers of drug addicts to help. Some of the mothers had rescued their own grandchildren from their parents’ drug use and were experienced at responding to crises and navigating the system. They were heartbroken for the toddler in the video and alarmed that no one had tried to help the mother. So they sprang into action.

    At the same time, the video may have been the push that the mother needed to persuade her to seek help.

    The story began the morning of Sept. 18, when Ms. McGowen, 36, of Salem, N.H., was driving around with a friend and sniffing fentanyl, she later told WBZ-TV in Boston.
    Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller that is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. After picking up her daughter, Ms. McGowen went to buy diapers at the Family Dollar store in Lawrence, just over the Massachusetts border. Lawrence, an old mill town, is at the nexus of New England’s heavy drug trade. As she was shopping in the toy aisle, Ms. McGowen collapsed and slumped to the floor on her back. Her daughter started wailing, prompting another shopper to alert a store clerk.

    Employees called 911, and one began recording the scene with a cellphone.

    At one point in the video, an unidentified man stepped up, called out “Mandy, Mandy” and slapped her a few times. Receiving no response, he then reached into her bag, removed a cellphone and eventually left. Otherwise, no one touched the mother or tried to comfort the daughter, who continued to cry. The video appeared two days later on the website of The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune and was released by the Lawrence police at about the same time.

    “You want to draw awareness to the problem,” Mr. Cuddy said, explaining why the police had released the video. “It is time that the non-drug-using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” East Liverpool officials wrote.

    In Lawrence, medics revived Ms. McGowen with two doses of naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose. Eventually, an ambulance took her and her daughter to Lawrence General Hospital. The police alerted the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which took emergency custody of the daughter.

    The video soon popped up on Facebook, before the police and the newspaper released it. One of those who first saw it was a woman who is tangentially related to Ms. McGowen. The woman called Pamela Gani, a New Hampshire mother who is active in helping people with drug problems. Ms. Gani called Ms. McGowen.

    “She broke down and said, ‘I want to die,’” Ms. Gani recalled. Ms. Gani then asked another mother, Lisa Carter, who lives near Ms. McGowen in Salem, to check on her. She was being evicted, she had lost her daughter and she was in pretty rough shape,” Ms. Carter said. “She’s sitting there in the candlelight, all alone, with no water, no electricity. She couldn’t even flush the toilet.”

    Magnolia New Beginnings Inc., a volunteer charitable group made up mostly of mothers whose children are or have been involved with drugs and who support one another through the crises that inevitably arise.

    “I posted to my warrior moms on Facebook that we were desperate for a detox bed,” Ms. Carter said. By this time, the video was ricocheting across social media, and other mothers in Magnolia — which has chapters in 25 states, including New Hampshire and Massachusetts — had seen it.

    “I was absolutely livid that people were sharing that video,” said Maureen Cavanagh, the founder and president of Magnolia, who lives in Massachusetts. “It perpetuates the shame and stigma of the disease.” Ms. Cavanagh also put out the word that Ms. McGowen needed a detox bed and longer-term treatment. Dozens of mothers began calling their contacts in search of help across two states. “We had to take measures into our own hands, because there’s no help whatsoever,” Ms. Gani said. But no one could find an available detox bed.

    Anxious for Ms. McGowen to receive medical help, Ms. Carter took her on Thursday to a hospital in Massachusetts, where people in New Hampshire often turn because their own state provides so few resources. After a day, the hospital discovered that Ms. McGowen had only New Hampshire Medicaid for insurance, which the hospital did not accept. The hospital discharged her on Friday — the same day, Mr. Cuddy said, that the Lawrence police charged her with child endangerment. Near despair, Ms. McGowen, who until then had not seen the video of herself, decided that she should watch it, Ms. Carter said. Ms. McGowen was feeling humiliated, embarrassed and deeply regretful, Ms. Carter said, and might have been on the brink of an intentional overdose.

    But she thought watching the video would give her the resolve she needed to seek help. Late Friday, a contact of Ms. Cavanagh’s in Massachusetts came through with a detox bed for Ms. McGowen for a week. He is also providing a bed at a treatment facility at no expense for 28 days. Intensive inpatient treatment with medical support can cost $30,000 a month.

    Before Ms. McGowen went to detox, she told WBZ-TV that she wanted to get clean and regain custody of her daughter and hoped that the video would not define her life.

    “It shouldn’t have happened, period,” she said. “That’s not what I want my daughter to see — her holding my hand trying to get me up and crying her eyes out.”

    Ms. Carter said that the daughter was being placed in foster care, not up for adoption, on the theory that Ms. McGowen would someday be well enough to get her back.

    By Katherine Q. Seelye - the NY Times/Sept. 27, 2016
    Photo, Illustration: 1-Eagle Tribune; 2- sdcuritybeat
    jNewshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. monkeyspanker
    :cry: :cry:, a lot of us here know how powerful an addiction can be, I don't have a child, I know many addicts that do and they struggle to keep themselves in check just for their children. For the love of God/Jehova/Allah/ The Universe, if you have a child, please get some help if you are in a rough spot, these little souls don't understand yet, they know love and need you to help them grow! I'm beyond heartbroken seeing this and, it's just one of many stories played out everyday across the world.
  2. detoxin momma
    awww, that poor little girl. What i sad story, i have legit tears :(
  3. AKA_freckles
    Mother guilt is hard enough for women who aren't addicts. Throw in that painful addition and it's overwhelming. Specialized mental health care and drug treatment for mothers in this country should be a top priority but it doesn't even exist.

    Mothers should be screened repeatedly for depression and other mental disorders.
    And given real help if something is discovered. Help like a caregiver for the mother, someone to help a few hours a week.
    Like drive them to psychiatric appointments. Someone to deal with the scheduling and reminders for appointments. Help with the pharmacy if they need medication. Give them a small break once in a while to take a real shower, and really do their hair and makeup, or practice yoga, or listen to music, or make a flipping phone call.
    All of this is almost impossible when you are a low income mother with serious problems. Especially with small children.This would also take some pressure off her partner,if she has one.

    Drug treatment should be available to mothers first. No joke.

    The lack of support for mothers, married or single, is appalling. It's so maddening I can't even think about it anymore.

    PS. This all applies to any primary caregiver.
  4. DeepGreenSea
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

    How many women in my family have left home before they were ready, or stayed in a home they knew to be dangerous because there is no support for mothers? Well let's face it-no support for women period.

    We have always been second class citizens-no matter how many of us there are, no matter what miracles we happen to pull out of our navels or our Virgin Wombs. We are Less Than. Yet, we are expected to be Stronger/Better/More Reilient than our "Betters."

    Now-fear of that exact scenario in that video, and fear of my father, and fear of the rest of my fucked ip family, has kept me from anything like child rearing. But it took 4 generations of misery before my Rabbit Like family finally had a generation where there was One Child, she was Female and she was Wise Enough to call our Bloodline Quits. Most women in a similar nature/nurture nose dive are not gifted with as much Perspective as I have been allowed...

    This poor woman. Did she fuck up? Yes. But does she deserve the Giant A she will have to wear on her hoodie for the rest of her life? No. It's like addiction is the new Adultery for Women. Somehow more "sinful" for us than for men. What about that babies father? Where is he? Why wasn't he taking the child? Or helping her mother? Where is his Giant Public Shame?

    Also: if this woman is in Deep Enough to snort powder fentanyl on her way to some diaper shopping (no one mentioned that this woman was still mother enough to pay out the nose for diapers even though she was knee deep in addiction. I know I have gone without period products FOR MONTHS, using old socks and t-shirts rather than spend 5 bucks on something that gets thrown away) why did no one even mention Maitenance? Why bother setting her up to fail with a detox and $30, 000 worth of 30 days of In Treatment? $30,000 would buy up to TEN YEARS of Maintenance!?! WTF!?!

    We know Maitenance works better, is cheaper and allows a person to stay in their lives-earning, caring, loving...but no. Let's try Abstinence Treatment!! It's so successful!

  5. detoxin momma
    DGS, your post really moved me. i am a mother, and I didnt even think about where the father was/is....good damn point!
  6. Name goes here
    Yea....I'm having a hard time giving this woman much sympathy for a lot if reasons.

    I'm a father of three who watches his kids everyday. I'm also a fentanyl user. I'm guilty of using while at the store, at school events, work, and plenty of other places I had no business using.

    Not once have I used to the point of getting high or nodding off. I get maintaining to not be sick and be out of pain. She overdosed. It's irresponsible to put yourself into a situation where your kids are not being cared for. Be it willful negligence, a drug problem or anything else. A parents job means they come before you. She used enough to overdose, in public, while watching her kid.

    Our substance abuse programs are a joke. The entire system needs to be revamped. Call it part of mental health which is pathetic. Does that mean users are off the hook? Should the state not have stepped in?

    I want her to get help. Be it maintenance or getting clean, getting her shit together so she can be a good parent is priority. I HATE the states child protective service sector. Kids are better off with their parents. She has a drug problem. It can be dealt with. I wish her and her kid the best.
  7. DiabolicScheme
    Well I feel sorry for her and the child. Granted I have enough sense to not get blitzed when I have my child with me. I don't know if she took that dose with the intention of being completely knocked out nor do I know the extent of her emotional pain.

    Realize that the chances are there were elements in this ladies childhood that have lead her to this type of use. She's most likely running from negative emotions by using drugs. She could have been raped, had abusive parents, parents that were never around, a parent or parents that abandoned her.

    My opinion is that she is probably just as much of a victim as that child. Now if she has the opportunity to get help and she doesn't do it then my feelings would be different.

    Unfortunately if she doesn't change chances are that child will be part of the same cycle and will likely become an addict as an adult.
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