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“Cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP, marijuana. Some children had multiple drugs in their system,” Project Harmony executive director Gene Klein said.
Klein said in 2011, Project Harmony started testing about 200 wards of the state.
In 2014, more than 540 kids were tested, and 72 percent of them were exposed to drugs.
“The increase, we think, is a combination of an increase in drug use and abuse,” Klein said. “And kids being exposed to that and the professionals that are investigating those crimes are more aware of those indicators and are bringing those kids to make sure they get tested.”
Medical director of Project Harmony Dr. Suzanne Haney said the process is quick.
“We need to take about 200 hairs from the child, which are from the scalp,” Haney said.
Staff can also use fingernail samples from babies if their hair hasn’t come in yet. It’s sent to a lab in Illinois, with results coming back in about a week.
Haney knows the importance of catching these cases early.
“School performance, behavioral issues, attention problems,” Haney said.
Catching the cases early also helps to get kids out of abusive or neglectful situations.
“Typically methamphetamine, the person doing the drug is completely oblivious to anything in their environment, so they’re not caring for the kids. They’re not feeding them. They’re not clothing them,” Haney said.
In turn, the test results can help investigators and prosecutors.
“The exposure to drugs gives the court a little more information about what’s going on in that home,” Klein said.
Project Harmony is looking for volunteer beauticians and barbers. They need hairstylists to cut and style the rest of the kids’ hair after testing to boost their confidence.
If you’re interested in helping, call Project Harmony at 402-595-1326.