Everybody wants babies to be born healthy. Most expectant mothers try to eat right, take vitamins and avoid things that might interfere with their baby’s development.
That challenge is especially difficult for women struggling with addiction. But the Harvest Program, run by Behavioral Health Resources, is trying to help.
Eighty parenting and pregnant women in Thurston and Mason counties are enrolled in the program to help them deliver drug-free babies and raise their families free of the shadow of addiction, said Danielle Murphy, clinical manager at BHR.
Tina Hey, 33, found the program three years ago, when her son was 5.
“I tried different treatment places before, but I’ve never had success like the Harvest Program,” she said.
“Trying to figure out how to balance the responsibility of working recovery and being a mom really changed my life. It really did,” she said.
Helping mothers have healthy babies and learn parenting skills is good for the community, too.
“Challenges facing drug-affected babies start during pregnancy and can last a lifetime,” said Gretchen Thaller, maternal child health coordinator for Thurston County Public Health.
Poor birth outcomes include premature birth and low birth weight and can result in learning and health challenges as babies grow into children and adults, Thaller said.
“Depending on the drug, the baby can go through withdrawal and have higher risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome),” Thaller said.
The Harvest Program hopes to add an inpatient option, Murphy said. There are no inpatient programs for women in Mason or Thurston counties, she said.
“We’re in the pretty early stages, looking at the building to see if we can support an inpatient program,” she said. The inpatient program would have 16 to 20 client beds, and women could bring their children.
“We’re hoping to be supported by the state for a significant amount,” said Laurie Tebo, CEO of BHR. She said they need $650,000 to remodel their existing Tumwater building, and from there the program would be sustainable by billing for services.
The program would be a step in the right direction, said Bat-Sheva Stein, a public health nurse consultant with the state Department of Health.
“We need many of those in the state. We need as many as possible,” Stein said.
Stein described what happens to babies born with drugs — particularly opioids — in their systems.
“The baby withdraws, no different than a regular drug addict: sweating, lack of temperature regulation, inability to eat; they need extra holding and comforting.” Withdrawal can take two to 14 days.
“Drug addicts don’t like to withdraw. Neither do babies,” she said.
The Harvest Program also helps mothers with life and parenting skills.
The classes helped Hey go back to school and relearn the skills she needed to succeed in the classroom. She also learned to home in on her personal parenting style.
“I got help for the things that kept me sick for so many years, and I got help one-on-one,” she said.
“When I went in there, I didn’t see a way to stay clean and stay in recovery. When I finished, I thought, ‘I never have to go back to that lifestyle.’ ”