Sarasota County deputies see trend of parents passing out in cars

From left to right: Christina Mattessino, Matthew McRee, Kathryn Miller (Sarasota County Sheriff's Office)

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s happened again. Less than a month after Sarasota county deputies caught these two parents passed out behind the wheel with young children in the backseat, deputies have arrested three more parents for the same thing.

Officials say it’s a sign that this drug epidemic is only getting worse, and now children are being caught in its wake.

At 4:30 Saturday morning, deputies learned a car was simply parked at the intersection of River Road and Tamiami Trail in North Port, blocking traffic. They soon found 36-year-old Matthew McRee and 30-year-old Christina Mattesino passed out while a 2-year-old was in the backseat. Officials also found heroin in the car.

After deputies responded to this tragic call at the beginning of the day, they weren’t finished because they got a similar call later that night.

At 11:30 pm customers spotted 30-year-old Kathryn Miller unconscious woman behind the wheel at a Venice Wawa with a 1-year-old in the back. Officials also found multiple containers of marijuana.

“There’s a responsibility with being an adult as well as being a parent to take care of these children,” said Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Vince Mayer.

This comes just weeks after a separate case where video shows an unconscious couple in Sarasota with two kids in the back. Its part of a dangerous trend seen nationwide. Local officials blame the rising opioid epidemic. It’s putting lives at risk.

“You could talk all day about the dangers obviously in the vehicle, their state of mind, their impairment. They could be involved in a crash, they’re not going to make any good decisions in that state of mind. Not only could they not be involved in a crash, they could pull up somewhere , they could forget about the child, they could lock the doors, depending on especially in Florida, the heat, the time of the day, it’s not gonna take long for that car to heat up,” said Lt. Mayer.

And it’s having serious consequences.

Bobbie Price runs Guardian Angels of Southwest Florida. It provides foster homes, and they’re getting an influx of children from this drug crisis.

“It breaks my heart,” Price said.

“Right now we don’t have enough beds in this county to meet the needs and so some are going to emergency shelters, some are going out of county, we continue to need more foster homes,” Price added.

This is serious- Price said local foster care organizations are seeing more orphans because the parents are dying from drug overdoses or kids are being taken away.

Officials are pleading with the public to stop putting kids’ lives at risk.

There are a number of foster care organizations in desperate need of support. And if you know anyone embroiled in drugs, there are resources to help such as Drug Free Manatee, Drug Free Sarasota, First Step Sarasota, and Centerstone.

You can also get the opioid antidote, Naloxone, over the counter.

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