The mental impact of children witnessing parents overdose

YORK, Pa.-- It's a story many of us have seen. Stories of parents overdosing on drugs in front of their children. It's happened around the country and recently here in Pennsylvania.

"We are in shock when we hear a story of someone passed out in their front seat after getting a fix of heroin, and their young kid is in the back seat," WellSpan Health's Dr. Chris Echterling said. "It's not a surprise when you understand how addiction works."

Dr. Echterling said children look to their parents for support and guidance. Drug addictions and overdoses take that away.

"Essentially, the absence of their parent, or at least the absence of their parent as a functioning parent to them, which has long-lasting implications for the kids," he said.

Leslie Delp, the founder of Olivia's House, which helps kids with loss and grief said, " If a parent was an addict or a grandparent was an addict, then it's in the family tree and we have to talk about it."

"We know that children who have adverse childhood experiences, [they're] more likely to have mental health problems, not finish school, or do drugs," Dr. Echterling said.

Delp said they've seen the amount of children impacted by overdose victims increase. She said they've already seen three this week.

Olivia's House aims to help children learn what drugs do to the body. Delp said we are a pain-denying society, and that doesn't solve the problem.

"It's all about the education. It really is," Delp said.

She said the programs are free and there is no time limit for how long they help.