The sudden loss of a parent can cause significant trauma in young children, but finding one’s mother or father deceased and having to independently seek help from an adult or first responder is likely to augment the trauma associated with that loss. In response to the growing number of fatal overdoses in the county witnessed by young children, we set out to create an early intervention program to help children cope with their trauma.
Launched in the spring of 2016, Project CARE (Case Assessment Response Evaluation) is a partnership among the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, first responders, and mental health clinicians.
When a first responder responds to a fatal or near-fatal overdose in which a child is present or where the individual is known to have a child, Project CARE, a 24-hour, 7-day a week rapid response intervention is activated. Upon doing so, a licensed mental health clinician triages the case and devises an intervention plan within the first 48 hours following an overdose.
The clinician then communicates and coordinates, as needed, with the Department of Children and Families, the schools, and others to provide coordinated and comprehensive wraparound services to the child. Mental health services are provided by the Mental Health Association of Greater Lowell and Eliot Human Services.