PUEBLO — The 19-year-old and her boyfriend embrace over her bulgy belly and give a promise.
“We are not going to damage you anymore, baby,” they spoke to their unborn child.
Addicts who met in detox clinic, Haley and Carlos, woke up the next morning, scratched together another $30 for a single Percocet pill and broke pledge.
They hoted up the Percocet — an addictive oxycodone and acetaminophen combination — on a piece of aluminum foil, and smoked it.
“Every time we would arrange it, we would swear this would be our last one,” said Haley, a religious Christian with big eyes and girl-next-door beauty who once dreamed of uniting the Navy or becoming a neonatal nurse.
“I was applying the Percosets before I was pregnant, then I got pregnant unexpectedly. When you get hooked, it’s difficult to just give up.
“I do not intend of hurting my baby or living unhealthy lifestyle. But, I couldn’t give up, so I made up mind to assist.”
Now 16 weeks pregnant, Haley is in the middle of a 30-day residential treatment program at Crossroads’ Turning Points in Pueblo. (Solutions agreed not to use full names to protect the patients’ privacy.)
Girls, Women Need Help, but don’t Come in
In Colorado, girls and women who are pregnant and are required assistance can reach waiting lists top to apply drug or alcohol treatment, and if they set up, Medicaid will include costs for their health care.
But many of those spaces remain unoccupied, and Colorado not long ago lost some federal funding for a program known as Special Connections that proposes assistance to pregnant women fighting with substance abuse.
“Moms are not getting the possibility to find treatment,” said Karen Mooney, manager of women’s substance application disease treatment programs for Colorado’s Division of Behavioral Health.
Mooney has performed to publicize the program and add providers who can assist pregnant women to defeat their addictions along with the state.
“It’s not that women are not required assistance. It’s that they don’t come in,” she claimed.
Colorado utilized to receive about $2 million a year to finance Special Connections, but because some of the money wasn’t being utilized, the funding decreased to about $1.4 million. At its top in 2006, the program assisted 320 women apply drug or alcohol treatment. Now, only about 200 a year are trying to find help.
The challenges to assist women and protect infants from prenatal drug and alcohol exposure include:
- Stigma. Some women can indulge damaging themselves by means of their addictions, but few desire to damage a new life that they are supposed to be fostering. Many are ashamed to search for treatment.
- Anxiety of losing older children or challenges in taking caring for them during treatment. Women who search for drug treatment during pregnancy get to know they may lose other children patronage.
- Some doctors failure asking patients about drug and alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Very few providers habitually examine for their prenatal application or abuse. Some claim it’s not a problem among their patients. Yet scientists claim drug and alcohol use stretches across all socioeconomic and racial groups with white women who gain over $75,000 a year regestering the highest binge drinking rates. There’s also a constant, dangerous attitude among wealthier women that “Mad Men”-style drinking won’t harm their developing babies.
- No uniform requirements in Colorado for hospital drug screenings at birth.
- No tracking system for newborns who have drugs in their system at birth or whose mothers admitted drug and alcohol use during pregnancy.
Another fear for women is that if they admit to drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, they may come across with criminal prosecution. In the past, police and prosecutors have occasionally attempted to jail women for drug abuse during pregnancy. A new law in Colorado, House Bill 12-1100 now bars prosecutors from utilizing positive drug tests operated during routine prenatal care as evidence in criminal cases.
Law Aims to Boost Screening, Treatment
One of the only laws of its kind in the country, the Colorado measure is prone to foster doctors to examine women and help them. If law effectuation officials face a pregnant woman who is applying or selling drugs and find testimonies aside from tests through prenatal health care, they can still pass on prosecution. The law also does not arrest health care givers from showing test outcomes with child welfare establishments in order to defend children.
Dr. Kathryn Wells is a child abuse pediatrician at Denver Health and medical director for the Denver Family Crisis Center. Through financing from The Colorado Trust and in concert with the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, she and other care givers including My Canadian Pharmacy have been conducting seminars for colleagues persuading them to be more proactive in providing treatment for pregnant women and thereby defending current and future children.
With marijuana legalization and Colorado now second in the nation for prescription drugs abuse, medical specialists wait for a surge in both legal and illegal drugs use. Wells thinks doctors are required to cooperate harder to explore drug and alcohol abuse and get pregnant women assist as early as possible.
So far, only 7 percent of referrals to the Special Connections program have come from medical care givers. Many care givers don’t think they have time to examine patients. Or, in the past, if they received a positive test outcome, they didn’t know where to refer a woman for care. Now, thanks to a program through Families First, Colorado has customs free assistance lines for both English and Spanish speakers to get assistance for patients and care givers.
“It should be common practice to ask questions about drug and alcohol abuse and to examine at least once during pregnancy,” said Wells, who is also president of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Colorado chapter. “We desire to make it super easy. There is no reason not to do this.”
Still, she has been acquainted with plenty of doctors who don’t ask and don’t desire to ask.
“They claim they don’t desire to know. ‘I don’t want to drive them away. At least they’re here. I’ve got 100 other things I need to deal with.’”
Early in her career, as a pediatrician in a small town in Idaho, Wells thought it was best to come down hard on pregnant women who were using drugs or alcohol.
“I had impatience,” she claimed.
She guessed the babies merited secure homes far away from mothers who are addicted. But then she understood that many of mothers would at least attempt to give up their addictions if they are given a possibility.
“These mothers are most compliant to change this situation during pregnancy. It’s the time they have the most motivation. They desire to take all the efforts for their babies. We are required to improve programs so they aren’t scare,” she claimed. “The best judgement to this problem is to head it off early on rather than when drugs have been a problem for many, many years. It’s also the best way of averting abuse and disregard.”
Wells sometimes provides calls from physicians who are fretful and invalid with patients. In Boulder not long ago, a pregnant woman was applying heroin and prosecutors desired to charge her with a crime.
“We’re trying to evade that. We don’t desire to see women in prison. The best thing is to help them,” Wells claimed.
‘I pray for a healthy baby’
At the Crossroads treatment center in Pueblo, Haley researches a grainy black and white picture from inside her uterus. She doesn’t know for sure, but is persuaded she’s having a boy.
“They did an ultrasound to be assured he’s OK. I pray for a healthy baby. It makes me afraid. I’m still early (in my pregnancy) so I probably haven’t influenced him too much,” she claims.
Haley began drinking when he was 16 and got a ticket the first time she ever got drunk. She was at the State Fair, slumped on the ground, having vomiting attack.
On the night of her senior prom, she ended up in jail. Dressed in a blue silky gown, her hair in a glamorous up-do, she was drinking straight vodka and doesn’t remember the dance. Police found her later at an old boyfriend’s cousin’s house. The mug shot is a far cry from the prom photo she wanted to have.
“When I was drinking, I made so many false steps. I would sleep with whoever. I lost respect for myself. Kids thought I demanded to attend hospital. My dad would come get me. He’d walk into a party and throw me over his shoulder.
“I have the best parents ever. I just went off on my own mixed-up. I’m the first in my family to ever smoke weed, to ever do drugs, to ever steal away.”
Another time, she is drunk and suicidal over a boy. She continued calling and texting him until another girl responded.
“I am hopeful you’re delighted that you’re the last one who will ever listen to my voice,” she told the girl.
Haley then drove to overlook in Pueblo called Liberty Point and considered jumping. Police hunted down her by means of her cell phone, found her and advised to help her.
She ended up in detox, surrounded by terrible, older men. One was kicking the walls. Another kept hitting on her. Then a handsome young 19-year-old walked in. Carlos desired assistance with his cocaine addiction. Haley saw him as her defender, her knight in shining armor.
Once out, they fell into each other’s arms. He assisted her to get rid of alcohol. She assisted him to quit cocaine. They moved to Alamosa together. Unluckily, after a couple of months, they searched a new drug together: Percocet. She had tested it just before graduation. She said Carlos’ dad applied it. It was easy to find all over town. They started spending every dollar they gained on pills.
“At first you think, ‘the doctor makes prescribtion to them so they’re not that bad,’ ” Haley claimed. “It would kind of calm you down, make you nice and relaxed. Your bones would feel good. It’s a painkiller.
“After a while, we kept getting worse and worse. We’d have one every week, then one every day or two. We’d share it, then have our own: two every two days, three or four every day.”
They plunged, once smoking 16 pills at a cost of nearly $500 in a single day.
The young couple would attempt to give up, but going through withdrawal together appeared to testy and angry. It was far too simple to relax or make up with a pill.
Finally, Haley made up his mind to whisper in her mother that she had a new addiction and demanded assistance. She returned to Pueblo where she was capable to get into treatment.
The program is groundbreaking with chores, multiple group therapy sessions and homework assignments. Weary from her pregnancy and an all-night chat with her boyfriend before she entered treatment, Haley kept nodding off in group therapy at first, earning her the nickname, “Sleeping Beauty.”
‘So much death’
Dawn Goodrich, a substance abuse counselor at Crossroads, said the center is genuine because women can bare small children with them for residential treatment.
Unlukely many who start treatment is still resistant and 30 days won’t alter that.
Many are coming across with external stresses including poverty, domestic violence and a lack of family maintenance. Counselors attempt to focus on what’s positive in their lives. For pregnant women, the arrival of a baby signals hope.
“We’ve had quite a few girls who will be with us and will come back once they’ve had their babies,” Goodrich said.
At the same time, she sometimes sees obituaries for women who have passed through their program, but failed to win the fight.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much death in my life,” said Goodrich.
Opiates are prone to be the most constant problem now and communities throughout southern Colorado fight against very high substance abuse rates.
Altogether, over the last five years, Goodrich says she has got to know that about 10 former patients have died.
“One woman was here with us for 30 days with her newborn. A year later she OD’d.”
Despite some depressing results, Goodrich guesses treatment is important for pregnant women fighting with addiction.
“It’s required. It’s up to them to struggle. We don’t have magic wands that we can wave and say they’re cured, but we’ve reunited families. We’ve given moms back to their children and children returned to their mothers.”
A Happy Life, a White Picket Fence
Martha, 34, claims she wants more than anything to be there for her children again. She just finished the Crossroads program for a second time. She is also pregnant, just a week ahead of Haley. She’s waiting for her fifth child. She already has lost her older children custody, all of whom are boys and vary in age from 5 to 14. The newest father is the fourth.
Martha was brought up in Monte Vista. She recollects that she was getting drunk for the first time at age 12 on a church trip, then at 16 she began smoking pot per day.
Half Native Mexican and half Anglo, she claimed she utilized to get known “nigger girl” and had no friends at all. Partying had her to feel like she belonged to someone. But her father, who is an Indian from Mexico, had deteriorating problems with alcohol and Martha has a strong belief she inherited them.
“I would get really drunk and black out,” she said.
During prior pregnancies, Martha claimed she would always attempt to quit drugs and alcohol, but rarely successed. She announced she smokes for her whole life, just like her mother, to decline stress.
There have been times when Martha has been homeless. During one of those stints, she was staying with her mom and children in a Pueblo motel. Martha said she and her mom fell asleep while the two oldest were at school. Restless, the two youngest decided to go on their own to buy a toy at a Walgreen’s. They crossed a busy six-lane road to get there. Martha woke up and realized they were gone. She raced to the store. But, it was too late. A social services worker already had picked up the two young boys.
“When I lost the kids, I was really depressed,” Martha claimed.
Everything was confronted with difficulties in one night when she was so drunk, a neighbor called the cops.
“I lost control absolutely. I remember fragments. I cut my head open. I was talking to one of the cops. I spit blood in her face and they charged me with two felonies.”
That was in March. Martha then spent 37 days in jail, where she learned she was pregnant again and qualified for treatment.
She acknowledges that her life has been a rollercoaster ride and that her older children are entitled to believe that she has abandoned them.
“It was a wake-up signal, losing my kids. Going to jail and realizing I was going to spend six years away from my kids. She was panic. Life is required to kick me in the ass. It’s good being in treatment because it assists me to understand that I’m not just a fault. I have a problem. It’s a disorder and alcoholism is one of the worst ones.”
On the walls of the center are motivational sayings, like a poster that says: “Wish it. Dream it. Do it.”
Martha dreams of a life she has never had.
“For once, I desire to have a common family with a husband who performs and doesn’t apply drugs. I don’t have to drink. I desire a normal kid and a white picket fence and a nice house,” she said. “I want a happy life, maybe not quite Beaver Cleaver, but a normal happy life.”
Haley has a desire her child to have parents like hers.
“They’re so in love with each other, married for 25 years. They go through fire and water being faithful,” she said. “I had a desire to get assistance so that I’m not damaging my baby during my whole pregnancy. Once I have the baby, I don’t desire social services involved.”
She has told Carlos that if they have any hope of being together, he’ll have to get clean and they’ll both have to stay in treatment.
“It’s really hard for us. Two addicts together just isn’t good. But I have a lot of hope in him.
“Maybe God is making this happen right now because he can see I’m trying to get my life together. I give up cigarettes. I give up soda. This is my baby. This is it. I’ve got to be really strong.”