Baton Rouge Grandmother Becomes One of Many Newfound Guardians Amid State, National Opioid Crisis

The Advocate - Ava’s blonde hair sticks straight up in the air after she whizzes down her favorite slide at the playground. She lets her grandma, Rhonda Rasbury, tame the static buzzing around her head. And then she’s off to the next part of the playground, a bundle of energy and cheerfulness. Most of the time, she’s like this. She likes to sing along to the “Frozen” soundtrack in the car. Her T-ball coach has deemed her the most aggressive athlete on the field. She makes top grades in kindergarten.

But sometimes, mostly at night, she cries, asking where her mom has gone, why her mom doesn’t bring her to school anymore, why her mom can’t tuck her in. They've gone eight months without seeing each other.Each time Ava asks, it triggers a new wave of pain through her grandmother. Rasbury tells Ava that her mom went to get better, and they pray she will come home soon.

“How do you explain this to a 5-year-old?” Rasbury asked. “I don’t know how to handle this, what to say, how can I comfort this child. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve gone through, is seeing what this has done to Ava.” Ava’s 27-year-old mom is an opioid addict, one of an estimated 2.1 million people nationwide hooked on the drugs, according to federal government figures.