A young Baton Rouge, La., boy, Mitchell Robinson, spent much time outside before his third birthday in July 2022. He also spent a lot of time in the hospital, receiving treatment for multiple fentanyl poisonings, Scripps News reports. One overdose would ultimately kill him. Despite clear indications he had been exposed to an opioid on multiple occasions, a standard hospital drug test did not reveal fentanyl in his system, so no one removed him from harm’s way. In an interview with police investigators after his death, the boy’s older sister reported seeing “a lot of pills” on her mother’s bed and that Mitchell “ate mom’s pills.” Ultimately, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) adopted a new safety policy that would affect cases like Mitchell’s.
The new policy required child welfare caseworkers immediately to respond, “face-to-face,” to cases referred to DCFS by a medical professional, but a Scripps News investigation found the policy was not enough to prevent another similar incident a few months later. A review of more than 260 fentanyl fatalities and near-deaths involving babies, toddlers and young children across the U.S. found numerous cases in which children tested negative on standard drug screenings before further testing confirmed their exposure to fentanyl. Such cases have prompted leaders in several states to consider similar changes to health policies and testing procedures. Although no new policies will bring back Stephanie Robinson’s grandson, she takes comfort knowing Mitchell’s death might save the lives of many others. “We're losing too many kids,” said Robinson. “I know change is slow and the process is slow, but that's my life term goal right now, for (Mitchell), to make sure no other child dies.”