Monroe support group forms for pregnant women with addiction

"If I'm pregnant, and I'm addicted, I am probably not going to go in to seek help because there's so much shame attached to that," says Wendy Klinski. She is one of many working to change that in a place where too many babies are exposed to drugs or alcohol. 

It is a startling statistic. An estimated one third of babies in Monroe County are born exposed to drugs or alcohol. Many times it's prescription painkillers or heroin.

"It is an extremely high number and we hope to move the mark on that," says Amy Zarend. She is director of the Great Start Collaborative for Monroe County. Partnering with Catholic Charities, the county health department and Promedica Regional Hospital, they have formed a support group for expectant mothers struggling with addiction called Hope for Healthy Babies.

Zarend says the group "ultimately provides a support network for one another and helps them understand that they're not alone." 

The program provides information, education and treatment because babies exposed to toxic substances in utero can suffer irreversible damage.

"You're ultimately changing the chemistry and the development of the child," says Klinski.

Children born exposed to toxic substances may miss developmental milestones, or have a particularly difficult time when they get to school. 

"There is such a stigma that goes along with addiction, and that is our number one challenge right now is removing and reducing that stigma because addiction, in itself, is a disease. 

But it's a disease that can be dealt with, starting with a program that officially lasts six weeks but whose ultimate goal is support and sobriety for years to come. 

"Recovery isn't a three, six month, one year plan - recovery becomes a life long plan. How are we going to help them maintain their recovery for a long sustained period of time?" says Zarend. 

The next meeting for hope for Healthy Babies is Wednesday.

To enroll in hope for Healthy Babies call Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan at 734-240-3850. New expectant mothers can join at any time.
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