A bill designed to protect young children from the dangers of illegal drugs in the home is making its way through the state legislature. Matt Hunter reports from the North Country.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, N.Y. – February marks two years since the untimely passing of Kayleigh Mae Cassell in Washington County.
"Any case where a child loses their life is difficult for anybody," said Tony LeClaire, the senior investigator on the case for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
"It was very, very sad,” said State Senator Betty Little, whose district includes the town of Kingsbury where Cassell lived. “You had Kayleigh Mae, 13 months old, dying of a drug overdose."
The 13-month-old succumbed to an overdose after her mother and mother's boyfriend gave her a lethal mix of cocaine and heroin.
"The child should have been discovered sooner or something, but never was," Little said.
As Rachel Ball and Joshua Bennett serve prison terms for their involvement in the young girl's death, law enforcement officials who worked on the Cassell case say they're routinely finding drugs and making arrests in homes that house young children.
"We are dealing with reports of it where drug paraphernalia or drugs are left out where it is accessible to kids," LeClaire said.
"One that comes to mind where a young man died of an overdose and there were 200 needles, used needles, in the bedroom and there was a young child in the home," Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said.
It is in response to cases like those that Little introduced "Kayleigh Mae's Law," which would allow children under the age of three to be tested for narcotics if their parents or guardians are arrested on drug charges.
"It certainly could save lives, and it gives social services a tool to use when they might suspect, or anyone might suspect, that this child is getting drugs," Little said Wednesday.
If the bill is signed into law, the process would be initiated by social services workers. If parents or guardians don't consent to submitting a hair follicle sample from the child, officials would be able to seek a court order from a judge.
"A hair follicle test is not harmful to a child, and I don't think it is terribly expensive, and it certainly is well worth it to be able to do this," Little said.
Little's bill unanimously passed the Senate Tuesday and is expected to be brought to a vote in the Assembly, where it has a sponsor.
While it couldn't help Kayleigh Mae, law enforcement leaders believe it could be a life-saving difference for other children who are unable to speak for themselves.
"I definitely think it will save a life in the future,” LeClaire said. "Any life that it saves is definitely worth this law being passed."