For My Baby and Me: A Winning Collaborative
Behavioral Health Services
It’s hard for Sabrina to pinpoint exactly when she knew her life had to change. For a chronic drug user, there are so many wakeup calls.
“My mom was thinking about getting life insurance on me because she thought I was gonna die. She knew how bad I was, and funerals are expensive,” said Sabrina, who has battled drug addiction for many years. (Sabrina is a pseudonym to protect her identity, as she’s in recovery.)
When she learned, at 23 weeks, that she was pregnant, she decided to confront her addiction “hell” and reached out to a new community collaborative, called For My Baby and Me, for pregnant women who are addicted and homeless, or at risk for becoming homeless.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Women who enroll in For My Baby and Me receive medical care through all stages of pregnancy, birth and postpartum; medication-assisted addiction treatment; peer recovery and relapse prevention counseling and support; housing assistance; transportation; employment services; and child care for dependents.
“As we see the opioid epidemic exploding, we’re starting to recognize that this is a subset of that population that’s gotten lost because of the lack of infrastructure for coordination between maternal health and addiction medicine,” said Susan Loughery, director of operations for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. “We’re meeting the patient where she is and wrapping whatever treatment is needed around her. What we want to do is make sure the baby is born healthy and mom is in recovery.”
Catholic Charities is one of six partners on the holistic healthcare project. The others are the Capital Health System, the Rescue Mission of Trenton, HomeFront, the Henry J. Austin Health Center, and the Trenton Health Team.
Mary Goepfert, clinician, Sabrina and Lisa Merritt, director of nursing
AN OVERLOOKED POPULATION
For My Baby and Me meets a critical need in addictions treatment, because many recovery programs don’t accept pregnant women, who require complex, specialized care. Sabrina, for example, got rejected from several programs before she found For My Baby and Me.
“For women seeking help, there is frequently an underlying fear of judgment from others or healthcare professionals, fear of law enforcement, and fear of actually living sober,” said Lisa Merritt, director of nursing for Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services. “While the health of both the unborn child and the pregnant mother is the primary focus of treatment, the ultimate goal is complete recovery. This will ensure that the mother is in a solid position to care for and parent her new child, free from abusive use of any substances.”
For My Baby and Me, launched in December, was funded by a $1 million New Jersey Department of Health grant. The state already has committed to continuing the program through 2019.
That sounds like great news to Sabrina, who feels hope for the future for the first time in years.
“It’s hard,” she said of recovery. “But I have a good support system here.”
Sabrina said the program helped her find sobriety and stability after years of addiction. She had her baby, Alyssa, in August and now plans to marry her boyfriend.
“I brought my baby home, which was the greatest thing I could have imagined. We are hopefully going to be getting our own place, with the help of the program. I really don’t know what I would have done if my family hadn’t found this program. They’ve been so supportive, there for us every step of the way,” Sabrina said. “If this grant wasn’t here with this program, with all this support I’ve received here, I’d probably be dead, especially with all the fentanyl out there.”
Sabrina cradled her baby, adding: “I know I did most of the work, but if it wasn’t for everybody’s help, I wouldn’t have her. And she’s awesome.”
For information about Catholic Charities For My Baby and Me program, call Lisa Merritt, director of nursing, at (609) 396-4557, ext. 2445.
ADDITIONAL STORIES OF INSPIRATION
Catholic Charities PACT team helped him avoid hospitalization and live independently in the community.
Linkages program provided shelter and stability for her and her children.
Rapid Rehousing program helped with her housing, so she can stay close to her sister.
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