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DIGGING DEEPER: Child abuse ER visits up

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TUCSON (KVOA) - The pandemic has caused many issues such as unemployment and isolation, to name a few.

Recently,  the Digging Deeper Team talked about the spike in child abuse cases in Tucson. Some of those cases are ending up in the emergency rooms.

It's an issue that is very concerning and has the attention of State Senator Victoria Steele.

"The cases that are showing up in the emergency rooms are pretty severe,” Steele said. “We're seeing that statewide right now."

It is at Tucson Medical Center for Children where most of the abuse cases end up.  Dr. Hilary McClafferty is the medical director. She said since the pandemic, "The cases we've seen and the frequency as well as the severity of the cases of abuse we've seen have been the among the worst I've seen in my entire career."

McClafferty is fellowship trained and board certified in pediatric emergency medicine.

"We are absolutely seeing a spike in cases in pediatric abuse cases in both physical abuse and sexual abuse,” McClafferty said. “Cases of emotional abuse as well."

She attributes this to the pandemic and how lives have been disrupted.

“So, kids are finding themselves more isolated, more indoors,” she said. “ The parents of course have been under unbelievable stress and strain over the course of the year and all the uncertainty."

They are also seeing a tremendous increase in mental health issues among children especially teenagers.

“Many, many teenagers who are anxious, depressed,” McClafferty said. “Many are experiencing suicidal ideations or attempts."

She added they have reached their breaking point because they do not know how to cope with the prolonged isolation, and the anxiety of COVID.  

As a result, some are overdosing.  She said it is serious and troubling. She said parents can do the following.

"Making sure the kids have outdoor time, exposure to sunlight, emphasizing the fundamentals of basic, good health every day and then learning how to keep things in perspective as a family,” McClafferty said.

Dr. McClafferty said if you have seen a change in your child's behavior, contact your pediatrician and have them evaluated.  She added, do not wait. If the child comes to TMC, they have a team of experts to help.

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Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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