MADISON, Wis — In the fight to end opioid addiction, SSM Health is partnering with Safe Communities to match addicted pregnant patients with recovery coaches.
The Pregnancy2Recovery program is the first of its kind in the country. SSM Health doctors are identifying at-risk patients in Dane County, then pairing them with someone who has been through the same situation.
“I’m just like the women I work with. I’m 13 years sober now. I used drugs and alcohol maybe 20 years of my life,” said recovery coach Jewel Adams.
She said the coaches are not social workers or law enforcement officers, but trusted friends who don’t judge. They help patients navigate the challenges of carrying a baby who will go through withdrawal.
“I talk to my patients like how I’d want someone to talk to me, because when I was pregnant I didn’t have a program like this, which I really needed,” said Adams.
The 56-year-old used crack cocaine during three of her six pregnancies. But she said she doesn’t regret her past. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to help the two expecting mothers she is coaching.
“When I share my story with women, I’m giving them a hope shot really,” said Adams. “I’m letting them know that it can be done, you don’t have to live this way.”
From 2000 to 2009, the use of opioid drugs during pregnancy has increased from 1.19 per 1,000 hospital births to 5.63.
“Not only does it happen more often than you think,” said Dr. Susan Davidson, but it happens in all walks of life and to everybody in every socioeconomic class.”
Davidson hopes Pregnancy2Recovery will help solve the epidemic in a more holistic way and bring babies into a more stable home.
“Our patients need somebody positive. They need somebody who can encourage them, they need somebody who they can share their deepest feelings with without feelings like they’re being judged,” said Davidson.
Adams knows exactly what these women are going through. She encourages them to stop feeling guilty and talk to people, instead of suffering alone.
“There’s fear in being pregnant and using drugs. You don’t know for sure if your baby will be taken from you, you don’t know if your baby is going to come out sick. That’s the worst feeling a mom could have,” said Adams.
The program is free. It is funded through a grant given to Safe Communities.