Offer Hope, Restore Dignity, & Transform Lives

Crystal’s story: Highlighting the need to provide treatment options for addicted pregnant mothers

We've run into a problem here at Volunteers of America of Indiana – we can't find a funding source to provide treatment at our Fresh Start Recovery Center for pregnant women who are (1) actively using drugs and (2) don't have an open case with the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS).

Right now, here is what happens instead (since the Fresh Start Recovery Center is funded through DCS). Because a pregnant mom cannot get help for her addiction, her baby is born with drugs in his/her system, and spends his/her first few weeks in the NICU recovering from withdrawal symptoms before being taken away by DCS. Then mom comes to the Fresh Start Recovery Center to get sober and regain guardianship of her child. (That's Crystal's story that will be shared soon.)

To solve this problem and provide proper treatment for addicted pregnant women, our executive leadership team has been taking strides to partner with local government officials to expand funding options in order to serve these pregnant women.

Thankfully, after a lot of hard work, their collaboration with Senator Jim Merritt lead to a hearing on March 22 for Senate Bill 446 that would fund a pilot program for pregnant mothers struggling with addiction. Crystal Boone, a recent client of the Fresh Start Recovery Center, courageously shared her story at that hearing, in favor of the bill. Here is her testimonial:

"My son was born in August 2016 with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. He was put in foster care and then he was with his grandmother – for four months I didn't have him with me. Once I got to Fresh Start Recovery Center, they let me have my child there with me, and go through every moment with him. I had no bond with my son beforehand.

This program has saved not only my life, but it has saved my son's life. He has his mother who is clean and sober, who is so happy with herself, who loves everyone who has given me this opportunity that no one else offered until DCS took my child from me. I hated DCS at first, but I love them now.

This program, if I had it when I was pregnant, I wouldn't have been DCS-involved. I was calling, asking somebody please help me, and nobody could help me because I was pregnant. So I kept using. And I had no other option because it was either use, or lose my baby. So I used.

This program, if I had it when I was pregnant, I wouldn't have been DCS-involved. I was calling, asking somebody please help me, and nobody could help me because I was pregnant. So I kept using. And I had no other option because it was either use, or lose my baby. So I used.

[The staff at the Fresh Start Recovery Center] have taught me how to be a fantastic mother. They taught me how to have people skills. I'm in the two phase program. The first phase is 21 days and I opted to stay an additional 54 days. I was not required by DCS to stay, I wanted to stay. The women and the staff and every person who works at the facility make sure you feel like you are at home. You are somebody, it doesn't matter what you did, it was a bad decision. None of that negativity was thrown into our faces.

My son was almost five months old when I came to the facility with him – he couldn't do anything. He is now crawling, he is pulling himself up, he is talking, he is feeding himself. He loves every one of those women in the program.

As mothers with addictions, we have all sat around and talked about how if we had this help when we were pregnant we wouldn't be here and our babies wouldn't be here. I thank God for this program and for these ladies and everyone else. I would not be sitting here today without this program, and had I had it sooner, my son wouldn't have had to suffer for 21 days and be on morphine and be away from me because he would have been fine. I support this 100%."

The bill passed out of committee unanimously.

You can watch her testimonial as well as a brief preface about this funding problem from our Executive Vice President, Shannon Schumacher. Just visit this link, go to the March 22 hearing, and scroll ahead to about 2:14:40: https://iga.in.gov/information/archives/2017/video/committee_public_health_1500/