Several counties across the state are experiencing all-time highs in the number of kids being removed from the custody of their parents.

Some have been able to stay with relatives, but many have ended up in an already stretched foster care system. Local and state governments have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers to combat the rising public costs of drug addiction and overdose. Drug deaths have risen from 200 in 1999 to 1,384 in 2016, according to the North Carolina Injury and Prevention Branch of the state Health and Human Services Department.

Buncombe County currently has about 400 children who have been removed from their homes due to substance abuse. That is 20% increase over the last three years. They have added three more social workers and two more supervisors just to keep up. “We are seeing high numbers of parents dying from the opioid epidemic, more than I’ve ever seen in my career,” said Program Director Rebecca Smith.

A grandparent who wished to remain anonymous explained, “If I hadn’t gotten my grandson out of the home he may be dead today. I really don’t know.” Her daughter is addicted to drugs and has been unable to get help. At one year old, her grandson tested positive for heroin.

Henderson County has had the number of kids in foster care grow 43% over the last five years. A spokesperson said they are hopeful after a seeing a decrease in the last few months. The number of relatives stepping up for kinship care is on the rise.

Madison County’s numbers have increased 25% over five years. Out of the 83 kids who are being fostered, 63 of those are there because of substance abuse. Currently the county only has five licensed foster homes. They are desperate for the public’s help.

District Attorney Todd Williams says, “Everyone who needs treatment can’t be provided treatment. The numbers are too great. We’re talking about an epidemic.” He describes their main focus as being on the suppliers of the illegal drugs, not on those addicted to them. Not everyone agrees with that course of action. Some believe an arrest might be a much needed wake-up call for addict.