Opioid Crisis Draws Need for CASA Volunteers
Court News Ohio-TV
Morgan Johnston is a familiar face here at CASA-which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
She has volunteered as a CASA guardian for three years now.
"This isn't like working at the food bank and handing out food. It's getting into homes where there's a lot of stuff going on. Can you be, what's the word, objective? Can you not let your emotions get involved in that?"
Every month she spends five hours with a nine year old girl---whose stepdad is addicted to opioids. What started as a prescription pain killer problem escalated into a heroin addiction.
"It's a chaotic environment. Mom's mad because Dad's using. And then they argue and where did Dad go. He's been gone for two days. We don't know where he is and Mom's upset because she doesn't know. Is he in the hospital? Mom is on edge and she can't parent?"
The need for CASA guardians like Morgan is growing in the state of Ohio, where opioid overdose deaths are at the top nationwide. Just recently, the Ohio Supreme Court has reached out to communities to get more guardians to volunteer.
"A lot of our children, believe it or not, they blame themselves. It affects their self-esteem. They are trying to figure out why their parents don't want them."
CASA guardians get to know the children affected, spend time with them, take them to court appointments, and write up monthly updates for social workers.
Being an advocate isn't the only reason Morgan feels compelled to volunteer.
Her daughter started using heroin three years ago and, although her daughter tells her she stopped using last fall, moms not so sure.
"There were days when I couldn't even go to work because I was such a mess. Where is she? What's she's doing? Is she going to die?"
She admits she has no control over her daughter's addiction. But as a CASA volunteer, it gives her a focused purpose to help other kids affected by addiction.
"Will I ever lose that oh my god, I'm scared to death that something's going to happen? I don't think I ever will because with this drug and this addiction? The way it works is you can be clean for 20 years and have a moment where you say I think I want to use. And you are back to the races again."
If you'd like to volunteer as a CASA guardian, here's how you can get in touch.