Ohio State study with dogs aims to help kids impacted by opioid crisis

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Researchers at The Ohio State University are hoping to help combat the opioid epidemic, with dogs.

A pilot study will start later this year that puts canines and their handlers with families affected by the crisis.

"This is one way for us to kind of reach out to the community," Dr. Kelly George said.

Dr. Kelly George is the Co-Director at the Center for Human-Animal Interactions Research & Education or CHAIRE. She is the lead of an investigation team at The Ohio State University.

The group of seven came up with the idea to research the interaction between therapy dogs and kids in the care of children services.

"I think sometimes a victim that is not always thought of initially, is the child who is not a substance abuser themselves, but still has the negative effects of that in their family," George said.

The dogs are meant to help kids cope through an opioid war.

"We see that they have issues with anxiety and depression and stress and again it just seemed like the perfect marriage to the idea of k9 therapy," George said.

About 20 kids out of Athens County Children Services will be part of the pilot study.

6 dogs and their handlers will sit with those children during court-mandated parent visits.

"People are more relaxed, less stressed," Lucinda Miller said.

Lucinda Miller is an Extension Specialist with 4-H Youth Development at The Ohio State University.

She's worked in pet therapy for 30 years and believes the dogs with Ohio 4-H PetPALS will help kids caught in the epidemic.

"They can identify with that animal, where maybe they can't identify with people per say," Miller said.

Officials with the Athens County agency said it had 183 kids in custody just last year.

It's the impact of the opioid epidemic.

Researchers say the hope is to put children at ease and get through the crisis.

The pilot study received grant money from the university's Opioid Innovation Fund to move forward.

Research is expected to start this fall.

If the results are successful, the study could expand across Ohio and beyond.