‘They’re desperate’: Some Arlington parents ask courts to intervene in teen fentanyl addiction treatment

A growing number of Arlington County, Virginia, parents are looking for drug abuse treatment for their children, leading to a boom in petitions filed in juvenile court seeking the court’s intervention.

“A large majority of the petitions we’ve seen are fentanyl cases, children with severe substance addictions and they’re desperate,” Michael Chick, a judge at Arlington Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, said during a Monday night panel at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

Historically, such petitions have been filed by school systems, but Chick said parents are taking it upon themselves to seek the petitions amid a reported rise in the county’s teen fentanyl overdose rate.

Chick told the group that there had been a nearly 100% increase over the past year in the number of petitions filed with the court seeking court services or supervision of a child.

Parents are coming to the court to say, “We’re desperate, please save my child,” Chick said. “It’s heartbreaking to see.”

Sometimes, he said, it is kids themselves who come in and ask the court for intervention in the form of treatment programs that the court isn’t able to provide.

“To have a kid beg you to put them in detention to save them from themselves, it’s heartbreaking,” Chick said.

Panelists encouraged parents to check their child’s behavior and to look for signs of irritability, isolation or changes in their social circle. The advice comes amid rising numbers of fentanyl overdoses involving people under the age of 18 so far this year.

“In 2019, we had none, none reported at all,” said Arlington County Deputy Police Chief Wayne Vincent. “In 2020, we had one non-fatal … In 2022, we had eight non-fatals. And here we are in 2023 … (We’ve had) up to seven in Arlington County.”

In January, a student at Wakefield High School suffered an overdose at school and later died.

Monday’s event was sponsored by the Arlington County Council of PTA’s, Wakefield PTSA, the Washington-Liberty PTA and the Yorktown PTA.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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