Saving Babies: Treatment program helps heroin-addicted mothers

Saving Babies: Treatment program helps heroin-addicted mothers

(WTOL) - Like so many others in Ohio, 22-year-old Ashley Spencer struggled with heroin addiction.

"I'm just so grateful to be clean now, because I really thought I was gonna die on the streets," Ashley said as tears filled her eyes. "I was in and out of rehabs, in and out of programs."

But unlike other stories we've brought you about heroin addiction, Ashley's story is different. Not only was she addicted, she was also carrying her unborn child.

"I struggled really bad, even when I was pregnant," she said.

So she turned to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center for help. Started in 2014, the Mother and Child Dependency Program works with pregnant moms who are addicted. In just over one year since the program started, 53 women have enrolled.

"It's not easy. I had to get help because it's not something you can do on your own," said former heroin user Stephanie Fix.

Stephanie was another expectant mother who found herself pregnant, addicted and alone.

"It's scary because the first thing I think of is my baby, am I hurting her? How does she feel?" she said.

Stephanie and Ashley both got clean and managed to have healthy babies.

Social worker Olivia Andres runs the program at St. Vincent. She says 50 of the 53 pregnant women who've come through the program have had similar positive outcomes.

"To see where these women start out and then where they end up, it's amazing," Andres said. "I think with pregnancy it makes people different because they have something to work for."

But what happens to those other addicted mothers who didn't find a program and didn't get clean?

Last year ProMedica alone reported treating 187 babies born addicted to heroin. Many of those babies ended up in foster care.

"In 2015, 59 percent of the cases that we have opened and worked with had some sort of drug abuse or drug related incident," Amy Galvan said.

Galvan is the Assistant Director at the Department of Family Services. She says the goals is to always keep families together, while also looking after the safety of the child.

"The most difficult thing for a parent to do is admit that they have a problem" she said. "I give parents credit for coming forward and saying 'I need help'."

Stephanie and Ashley said they both credit their babies for helping them get clean.

"The help is there as long as you put in the work, it can be okay," Stephanie said.

"I've overcome the unthinkable, the unimaginable. I'm that statistic that made it," Ashley said.

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