On Monday, Wright State University held the Community Forum on Newborns Exposed to Heroin. Congressman Mike Turner and the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association hosted the event, which was considered the kick-off event of a new push to deal with the rising numbers of newborn babies affected by heroin use.
Association President, Brian Bucklew, says the rising number of babies being born to drug-addicted mothers is staggering.
“We’ve seen a 39% increase just in this past four year period of time, and we’re tracking ahead of last year’s record number," Bucklew said. "So, it’s a big issue with women that are pregnant that are using heroin, and we’re gonna come up with a community response, working with our community partners and our hospitals to deal with that.”
"THIS IS A PROBLEM WE WON'T BE ABLE TO ARREST OUR WAY OUT OF."
Montgomery County Sheriff, Phil Plummer told the crowd that as of mid-June there have been 515 drug related arrests this year – 50% of those were heroin related. Most of the drugs, according to Plummer are coming in through Mexico.
The sheriff had some more sobering statistics to share—reporting that there are more than 100 gangs operating in Montgomery County. One gang, the Dayton View Hustlers, is known to have about 200 members. Plummer said this is a problem that cities like Dayton won’t be able to “arrest their way out of.”
Michele Cox is with the Women’s Recovery Center in Xenia. The organization works in 15 counties in Ohio to help women who are addicted to drugs, particularly those who are pregnant. Cox says their goal is to get women into treatment early in their pregnancies.
“A lot of times women are using and don’t know they're pregnant, and sometimes they don’t get treatment until the latter part of that pregnancy," Cox says. "But even then we do the best we can with the time we have and do everything we can to keep that woman safe and hopefully build her process and recovery along with her being a [new] mom too.”
"THEY WEREN'T THERE TO TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM ME, OR TO PUNISH ME."
25 year old, Jamie Holland of Springfield is one of the women being helped by the Women’s Recovery Center. She says she was using heroin until she found out she was pregnant. Having two other children at home, she turned herself into children’s services, was arrested, and then entered the Recovery Center’s program.
“A lot of people run away from Children’s Services, and stuff like that, but they’re actually there to help. They weren’t there to take anything away from me or punish me, they were just there to help.”
Holland says she was free of drugs for the last four months of her pregnancy and remains so today. Her son Blake was born healthy, and she has a future with all of her children. Holland has one more month left with the center and then she’ll move to a transitional home if she wants, or she can be on her own. While she is worried about the future, she believes that if she stays strong, keeps herself busy, and doesn’t drift back into drug use, she and her children will be okay.
Going back home is often a challenge for people in recovery programs. It often means going back to the environment where drugs were easily accessible—from friends, neighbors, or even family members.
That’s why housing for people in recovery centers will be one of the focuses of the new forum, according to Terry Burns, president with Soin Medical Center and Greene Memorial Hospital.
“If you can’t get the people out of that environment, it’s a very significant burden that gets added to their recovery.”
The organizations that have now come together on this issue say their next steps are to pull together a list of services that are currently available region-wide and assess what other services are needed to fight the rising numbers of newborns being exposed to opiate drugs.