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Addicted Babies | Options for reaching out to addicted moms limited

Fellowship Story Showcase

Addicted Babies | Options for reaching out to addicted moms limited

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This is part of  Laura Ungar's fellowship project, where she looks at how the addiction surge affects the next generation — newborns suffering drug withdrawal because of their mothers’ drug abuse.

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Addicted Babies | Options for reaching out to addicted moms limited
Kentucky's 36 certified centers are 'certainly not enough,' supervisor at one says
The Courier-Journal
Saturday, August 25, 2012

One way to stop the cycle of addiction is to get women into treatment before they pass their drug problems to their babies.

But officials, experts and recovering addicts echo the comments of Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services: “There are very few treatment places for pregnant, addicted moms to go.”

More on the series: Read continuing coverage of the prescription drug epidemic in Kentucky

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration lists 36 licensed or certified substance abuse treatment facilities that serve pregnant or post-partum women in Kentucky.

But that’s “certainly not enough,” said Maggie Schroeder, a case management supervisor in the outpatient program at the Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center. “We need more residential services. We need more outpatient services. We need more services in general.”

The existing programs provide a range of services, from detoxification to long-term, residential treatment.

JADAC, for example, runs Project Link, an outreach and case-management service that assesses pregnant women at risk of using drugs and helps them find addiction treatment or other community resources for free.

The center also offers outpatient treatment and short-term inpatient care for pregnant women, including opiate detoxification in the second and third trimester as appropriate. Those services are covered by Medicaid or other insurance or paid on a sliding scale.

A handful of long-term residential treatment programs in Kentucky target pregnant women and their babies, providing intensive therapy, support groups, fellowship, life skills education and recreation. Women stay during pregnancy and for a short time after giving birth.

Two such programs are the 15-bed Independence House in Corbin, run by Cumberland River Comprehensive Care Center and the 10-bed Freedom House in Louisville, part of Volunteers of America’s Women’s Substance Abuse Treatment Services.

Medicaid generally covers clients at Independence House and pregnant clients at Freedom House. Some post-partum Freedom House clients may pay a fee, but officials said no woman is turned away because she can’t pay.

Both facilities have waiting lists. Freedom House’s totaled 30 women earlier this month. And budget difficulties forced Volunteers of America in July to close Grace House, its second long-term site targeting pregnant women in Louisville. Officials said they couldn’t afford to pay for clinical staff in two places.

Some Grace House clients were moved to Freedom House, while others moved to transitional or permanent housing after completing the program.

Volunteers of America is converting Grace House into a transitional housing and sober-living environment for women who have completed substance abuse treatment, and their children. Officials hope to turn it back into a treatment location if they can.

“We get calls every day,” said Tara Glover, family advocate for the women’s program at Volunteers of America. “If we had a huge hotel, we would still be getting calls every day.”

Glover said such programs “are the last resort for many women,” their “only hope.” But if the pregnant mothers stick with their treatment, officials said the vast majority give birth to healthy, drug-free babies.

Here are two of their stories, in their own words:

Rebecca Brown, 23, Lawrenceburg, Ky.

A pregnant client of Independence House.

“I started using when I was 15. It started with pot. …

“I was always taught right from wrong, but I liked to rebel; I always hung out with the kids whose parents would let them do whatever they want. It just continually got worse. …

“My mom has tried everything. I went to outpatient counseling before I turned 18. … I just never really quit.

“The longest time I was clean was when my daughter was born. I was clean for a year. I didn’t use when I was pregnant with her. …

“What really triggered it (again) was when I was in the hospital, and they gave me the pain pills and I didn’t really need them, and I took them anyway. …

“Two months before I came here, I was doing Percocet 30s (milligram tablets) every day, and cocaine, Xanaxes and weed on a daily basis. I couldn’t function unless I was high.”

After being put on probation for stealing a Wii to support her habit, Brown’s drug tests came back positive.

“I found out I was pregnant, and I knew that they weren’t going to give me another chance. For me, it was either go to prison — because my jail doesn’t house pregnant women — or come here. So I came here.

“I was tired of it. I had hit my bottom. … I couldn’t quit on my own. … I had went to detox before I was here, so when I got here I was clean for two or three weeks. …

“Here, it just teaches you a new way to live. …

“I know what it feels like to lose a child. My daughter thinks I’m her sister. She calls my mom and dad (her parents.)

“I don’t want to lose a child again.”

Heaven Walker, 23, of Louisville

A Volunteers of America client who was at Grace House and is now at Freedom House. On Aug. 8, she gave birth to Kyler Adams, who was drug free.

“When I was 17, I started hanging out with the wrong people, and I started using drugs, just on a social basis. Like I would smoke marijuana every now and then, and if somebody would have a pill, I would do a pill with them. I just kept on and kept on. …

“Then I met a guy. He was both of my children’s father, and he was already using, so I started using with him. … I don’t even remember getting addicted, but I was just at the point to where every day I just needed something. … It was no longer a social thing; I needed it.

“In 2008, I got pregnant with my first daughter, and I stopped doing drugs while I was pregnant with her. And after I had her, me and (her father) started fighting and he wouldn’t stop using. So I started using again. He went to jail for robbery … and I went to jail for possession. …

“While I was in jail, my parents got temporary custody of my daughter. … And then when I got out, I was doing really good. I was staying clean, doing everything (child protective services) wanted me to do. And then I just fell off again.

“(Eventually) I got pregnant with Kyler and I continued to use. … ”

After another arrest, “I was relieved. I was happy. I didn’t cry or nothing. I was thanking God it was over with. …

“So I found the Grace House and they accepted me. … I ended up staying. I’ve loved it. I’ve been clean for almost four months now. …

“I feel guilty for doing drugs when I was pregnant with (Kyler). I thank God every day that he gave me an eye-opener.

“(Kyler) is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. He’s the proof of me getting better and being a better person.”

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