Serving at-risk youth both in its residential facility and in the community, three-quarters of those seen by staff at The Chase Home are significantly affected by the opioid crisis.
For The Chase Home Executive Director Meme Wheeler, this stark reality hit home in recent weeks.
“We just took in siblings, who are teenagers, but look 8 and 10,” she explained. “They are malnourished, suffered from neglect/abuse, and rarely went to school.”
Wheeler said the parent is “missing all teeth, very thin, and clearly addicted.”
“These kids came to us at night in pajamas and crying,” she said. “It’s pretty heartbreaking.”
The real work, said Wheeler, begins now.
“These kids need a tremendous amount of support and help that costs real dollars,” she said. “Most people do not understand that we take kids who are not just in the Juvenile Justice system. They are here through no fault of their own, and it often involves parental addiction to drugs and opioids…This crisis is real and it’s right here.”
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth is one of the oldest nonprofits in New Hampshire, serving more than 140 at-risk youth annually statewide through prevention, early intervention, residential and community-based programs. Some youth are served in the community while others live at The Chase Home.