When she left school, she just thought her parents were asleep. But when she came home, her entire world was turned upside down.
For more than 24 hours, one 7-year-old girl had been trying to rouse her parents. When she was unable to do so, she simply carried on with business as usual. She got ready for school, boarded the bus and left her small apartment just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Monday morning.
According to a report from the Washington Post, the small child kept her concerns to herself throughout the day, but when the bus driver returned her that afternoon, police said the little girl told the driver she had been unable to awaken the adults living in her home.
Officers with the McKeesport Police Department entered the apartment and discovered the worst of scenarios: Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25, had died of an apparent heroin overdose. And, along with the 7 year old, were three other children, ages five, three and nine months.
The children were unharmed, according to the Post, but nevertheless were taken to a nearby hospital to be evaluated before being placed in child protective services. Sadly, the terrible fate these four young kids are facing is not that uncommon, according to Allegheny County health officials.
"There is an opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S., and Allegheny County is not immune," a county report reads, noting that over the past year, there have been 422 overdoes deaths in the area — more than any prior year.
And, though Allegheny County "has experienced fatal overdose rates higher than those seen throughout Pennsylvania and many other states," the drug epidemic is one that has permeated the entire state, according to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat.
As the Post noted, speaking last week to lawmakers in Harrisburg, Wolf asserted that Pennsylvania is staring down "a public health crisis, the likes of which we have not before seen."
"Every day, we lose 10 Pennsylvanians to the disease of addiction," he said. "This disease does not have compassion, or show regard for status, gender, race or borders."
And similar reports further bolster what Wolf said.
In early September, police released images of a man and a woman arrested in Ohio after they allegedly passed out while under the influence of drugs in a vehicle with the woman's 4-year-old son sitting in the back seat. Children's Services placed the little boy under the care of a neighbor.
Once again, toward the end of September, disturbing video surfaced, showing a toddler trying to awaken her mother, who had allegedly passed out from drug use while shopping in a Family Dollar in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
"It’s very disturbing to see someone like this. It’s obvious addiction has overtaken them, to the point of not being able to care for their child," Police Chief James Fitzpatrick said at the time. "She's lucky to be alive."
In the U.S., opioids like heroin and prescription drugs killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 — more than any other year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly half of those deaths, the CDC reported, were a result of prescription drug overdose.
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