Making Treatment for Maternal Addiction a National Priority
In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re featuring a guest blog post from Imani Walker, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights. The Rebecca Project is an organization that advocates for justice, dignity and reform for vulnerable women and girls in the United States and in Africa. You can learn more about the organization here.
As I look forward to spending Mother’s day with my four children, I cannot help but think of other mothers across the country who suffer from untreated addiction and wonder what this Mother’s day will be like for them and their children. As a result of receiving 18 months of Family-Based Treatment, I have been in long-term recovery from substance abuse for 13 years. In the United States, investment in Family-Based Treatment programs saves countless lives and families, because healing addicted mothers exponentially affects the child welfare system, juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems. Family-based substance abuse treatment describes programs for pregnant or parenting mothers and their children that provide direct services or referrals for services including: substance abuse treatment, child early intervention, mental health, family counseling, trauma therapy, housing, medical care, nursery and preschool, parenting skills training, and educational or job training.
The unavailability of family-based treatment is manifested in the overrepresentation of substance-abusing mothers in the child welfare system. Many of the families who come to the attention of child welfare agencies are substance abusing. When mothers achieve access to family-based treatment services, they are able to find health, healing and stability for themselves and their families. Those beneficial outcomes translate to fewer children in foster care, less juvenile offenders and ultimately less adult offenders.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 5.1 million persons were current abusers of prescription painkillers. According to the CDC, in 2009, about three out of four deaths due to prescription drug overdose were caused by prescription painkillers. The number of deaths due to these class of drugs in 2009 was nearly four times the number in 1999; this increase is paralleled by a quadrupling of the sales of prescription painkillers from 1999 to 2010. Overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers exceed those due to cocaine and heroin combined. Grim consequences of this opioid abuse are babies born with Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome.
I co-founded the Rebecca Project for Human Rights ten years ago after recovering from substance abuse through a family-based treatment program. Back then crack cocaine was wreaking havoc in our urban communities; then methamphetamine emerged reaching nooks and crannies of Middle America. Now with growing addiction to prescription drugs, mothers are increasingly younger, white and middle class. Family-Based Treatment should be an important piece of our nation’s drug control policy.
I wish all mothers a happy and safe Mother’s Day!
Imani Walker, Co-founder & Executive Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights