ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Salisbury Police have arrested and charged a mother with child abuse after she allegedly overdosed on Xanax with her young child in the vehicle with her.   

The alleged situation happened at around 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Food Lion parking lot on Mahaley Avenue. 

Jessica Wall, 27, was allegedly observed being passed out in her vehicle with her 1-year-old child inside. She has been arrested and charged with child abuse.   

While heartbreaking, situations similar to this where children are found to be neglected and abused by guardians have reached 20-year highs.   

At a Rowan County Commissioners meeting in April, the Community Child Protection Team announced three new initiatives to combat the rise in abuse and neglect cases.

While these new initiatives are still in the early stages, child advocacy centers across the region continue to see case referrals at rates on par with record years.   

Erin Moody with the Terrie Hess Child Advocacy Center in Salisbury, explained, “Last year total we had 250 new abuse cases that came here for service… We’re about on track to do another 250 cases again this year.”   

The center primarily helps children who suffer physical or sexual abuse process those traumas, and help them walk through those terrifying journeys.   

“Statistically speaking it’s one in 10 children who will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday,” Moody explained. “That’s one in four girls, one in six boys. So, most of us know 10 kids.”   

In 2022, 280 Rowan County children were placed into foster care, with 113 of them entering due to neglect, abuse, or dependency concerns.   

In April, Rowan County Public Health Director Alyssa Harris told county commissioners that 10 percent of infants in Rowan County request a plan of safe care. 

“This means they are born and identified as being affected by substance abuse disorder,” she said. 

The numbers appear staggering and have begun to really hit home for community members.   

Moody explained that since her agency is a nonprofit, its doors and services are kept open by the donations and grants provided to them.   

“Every time a story makes it on the news, it really resonates with people and they realize just how large of a problem this is,” she said.   

Moody stressed that while there are stigmas around which families are impacted by abuse and neglect, she has seen it happen to any family anywhere.   

“Recidivism rates are really high if that child does not have access to the appropriate service to get help after they’ve experienced something,” she said. 

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