Program helps pregnant Butler County addicts gain independence

  • Denise G. Callahan
  • Staff Writer
7:45 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017 Butler County

In the year since the launch of a service for pregnant Butler County women addicted to drugs, more than half of the 13 participants have successfully completed the pilot program.

Motherhood and Maternity Addiction Services (MAMAS) offered residential addiction treatment for the women as well as life skills training, job placement services and a support system to help them in the future as part of a collaboration between Butler County and several social service agencies. The idea was to cut the financial burden taxpayers carry for these women because the jail must house and provide medical services for them.

“I’m thrilled that we’re having healthy babies, that’s the number one thing,” Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter, the impetus behind the program, said. “Our goal to get these women self sufficient is working because it’s not just to help them right now, to stay clean until the baby is born, it’s to put them on the right path so they have the right skill sets to succeed, once they are through our recovery housing, have jobs and are on their own.”

Thirteen moms and 15 children were part of the recovery housing program when it launched last winter. According to Sojourner Recovery Services, one of a host of Butler County social service agencies that partnered in the program, 77 percent — or 10 — of the women have successfully made it through one year in the sober living recovery house. Sixty-nine percent of those women also are now working, according to the agency.

The recovery housing was the most important part of the program, according to Kristan, who asked that her last name not to be published. She believes she and her son, now 1 year old, would have been in a homeless shelter otherwise.

“I’m almost 30 and I have never lived by myself,” she said “I’m realizing it’s something people are not just born with it (the ability to live alone) you really have to learn how to do it. I don’t necessarily love being alone, I’m a big scaredy cat, but I like the idea of being independent.”

Kristan said she fell off the wagon early on in the program but got back on track. She also counts among her successes being able to hold a job and mending her relationship with her parents, who watch her son while she works.

Leslie Simpson and her son, Colton, also live at the recovery house where she now serves as “house manager” for Sojourner. She kicked her drug habit in 2015 before her son was born but entered the program out of fear she would start using again.

“There is one thing that you have change, that’s everything,” she said. Before living in Butler County, Simpson was a Clinton County resident.

“If I went back to Clinton County I would be back around the same people, doing the same things. There is absolutely nothing out there, there are zero resources (in Clinton County). So people go back to what they know, that’s selling drugs, that’s using drugs, it’s the hustle they call it. And I don’t want that for me … I think that God strategically places certain people in your lives and I was meant to go to Sojourner,” she said.

She works several jobs, has gone through intensive treatment for her heroin addiction, is going back to school and paid off $16,000 for her legal troubles — she lived for free at the recovery house — and is now the resident manager where she “observes and reports” if rules are broken or other issues arise.

Kendra Hall, Sojourner’s Perinatal Program Director, said Simpson was the perfect choice as house manager, because she has lived the same life her charges have.

“It has worked out great because she has lived it and continues to live it because she is on her recovery journey that lasts a whole lifetime,” Hall said. “But she’s so open and honest and I can tell these women things, they might listen to me but she can say ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done it and I know how hard it is.’ She has a way with them where she can just relate with them, like I can’t.”

Sojourner has had programs to deal with the special problems pregnant addicts face for many years, but now components of the MAMAS program are also available to all pregnant addicts, not just those who stay in recovery housing. Hall said about 45 additional women also received case management services through the MAMMAS program. For some it might have been help finding a job, child care, education, housing and other “barriers” blocking success.

They also were allowed to participate in SELF’s “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’ By World” that focuses on helping individuals pull themselves out of poverty.

The Butler County commissioners provide about $85,000 for the program that covers Sojourner’s services and the free recovery housing for six months. SELF receives about $70,000 from Butler County Job and Family Services.

Eventually the goal is to have one-on-one mentors for the moms. Carpenter said the goal is to match the moms up with mentors who will be life-long support systems.

Commissioner Don Dixon admits he was skeptical when Carpenter first broached the subject of helping pregnant addicts, but he said any concerns he had have been erased.

“She has done what we should have all the rest of the programs do: make them accountable, make them so they work,” Dixon said. “And the ones that work, you gravitate towards, you help get more funding, you try to get people in it, and get more people successfully through it. The ones that don’t work, then you just have to stop the crazy spending. I’m tickled to death it’s working.”

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