Because of this, Catalyst Health Solutions held a luncheon Tuesday afternoon at the Summit Foundation to connect patients with local resources for new mothers struggling with substance abuse in the epicenter of the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“This is a subject close to our hearts, as well as many people in our community, due to the devastation drugs have caused in East Tennessee,” Catalyst Health Solutions social worker Erika Fugere said ahead of the event.
The event invited parent and pregnancy support organizations like the Hope Center in Greeneville and Erwin, the Washington County Health Department, Kingsport’s Hope House and more. Parents who attended also had access to free diapers, wipes, baby shampoo and other essentials.
“Most of these women don’t want to admit they have an addiction, and even for those that do, about 86% of their pregnancies are unplanned, so they hide it,” Fugere said. “What we hope to show them through all of these organizations is that there is in fact support available — people who aren’t going to judge them and people who want to do what’s best for them and their baby.
“We’re hoping that, through these organizations, they can find some support.”
Jenny Tester, also a social worker at Catalyst, said the event provided a space for new mothers to seek out help without judgment.
“We see the struggle every day working in this kind of field,” she said. “We see mothers who’ve lost their children, we see moms trying to get their babies back dealing with neonatal abstinence syndrome. We see a full spectrum of the problem.
“Pregnancy is one thing, but where do you go after pregnancy? That’s where we all come in trying to help them build their lives back up.”
Hope House Executive Director Victoria Heinz said it’s important to provide a “stigma-free zone” for mothers who need pregnancy support, especially if they are battling substance abuse issues. Heinz said Hope House provides services including residential programs, counseling, employment assistance, as well as trauma support groups for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“With substance abuse issues, a lot of women get into these situations because of the crises they’ve endured their entire lives and the abuse they’ve suffered,” she said. “We’re wanting to look at the whole person and family and ask how we can help and address problems.
“In this environment, they’re able to share some of the real things that are going on,” she continued. “We can get real with them and ask how we can help where they’re at.”
Tester said Catalyst recently started accepting insurance and additional grant funding, enabling their social workers to serve more mothers, regardless of income.
“That, in and of itself, has opened up the door for us to be able to do so much more,” she said.
For more information on Catalyst and other events like these, visit catalysthealth.org.