Sesame Street Tackles Opioid Crisis with Character Whose Mother Struggles with Addiction


The enduring children’s show Sesame Street is tackling the opioid crisis with a character whose mother is struggling with an addiction.

Sesame Workshop, which is behind the show, said the new initiative features Karli, a six-and-a-half year-old Sesame Street Muppet “whose mom is dealing with addiction.”

The organization didn’t specify the nature of the character’s health problems, saying only that the issue will be explored through an ongoing series of videos and other content.

“Favorite Sesame Street characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby learn what Karli is going through and help their friend to cope,” Sesame Workshop said in its announcement on Wednesday.

Sesame Street first introduced Karli in May as the face of the Sesame Street in Communities foster care initiative. The new addiction storyline explains that Karli’s was placed in foster care because her mother had to go away for treatment, though now she’s in recovery.

The show said there are 5.7 million children under the age of 11 — one in eight children — who live in households with a parent who has a substance abuse disorder. It said one in three of these children will enter foster care due to parental addiction, a number that risen by more than 50% in the past decade.

Opioid used can take many forms, including addiction to Chinese-supplied fentanyl, Mexican heroin and U.S-made prescription opioid drugs.

Nearly 1 million prime-age Americans were dragged out of the 2015 labor force due to addiction to these substances, according to a report last year from the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank.

After decades on PBS, Sesame Street moved to HBO in 2015, with repeats still available on PBS. Last week, it was announced that beginning with its 51st season, the show will debut on HBO Max, the new Warner Media streaming service that is set to launch in 2020.

This article has been updated.

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