'New baby, new start' available for young women who face substance abuse issues or jail time

File/AP/Lynne Sladky)

Delaware was one of just two states in the country that did not have an inpatient treatment program for pregnant and parenting women. A partnership between addiction treatment provider Guadenzia and the Delaware Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH) will change all that come July. 

It's incredibly necessary, said Guadenzia Chief of Staff Dr. Pat McKernan, as Delaware has some of the highest rates in the country for substance use disorder and overdoses. 

"The Delaware Division of Forensic Science's annual report showed that overdose deaths increased more than 15% last year, in 2021, with more than 500 people in Delaware dying from overdose deaths. So the addiction epidemic is felt very, very specifically in Delaware," McKernan said. "What we know is that women accounted for almost a third of those deaths, and that women are often reluctant to go into treatment because they have children, and they are fearful of being without their children...so the opportunity to provide treatment where women can bring their children with them is really removing a barrier that is keeping people from seeking the help that they need."

On July 1, 2022, Mckernan said Guadenzia will open the doors to a "high intensity residential treatment program" facility in Claymont which will serve 10 families. A second facility, offering transitional "low intensity residential treatment" with open October 1st, she said, with the goal of women beginning addiction treatment while also being offered a continuum of care for their children. 

"The goal is to have pregnant women who have healthy babies," she said. "We want to reduce the the instances of babies born substance exposed...We want healthy babies born to moms in recovery."

The $3.2 million contract from DSAMH was made possible thanks to the championing of Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, state Sen. Sarah McBride, and state Rep. Melissa Minor Brown, McKernan said. More statistics provided by Guadenzia Monday in a release announcing the coming of the new treatment facility included: 

  • 20% of pregnant/postpartum women in Delaware’s Medicaid program have SUD and 10.6% of those women were addicted to opioids.
  • 70% of women entering treatment for SUD have children.
  • 2,511 substance-exposed infant births occurred between 2015-2019.
  • The average cost per hospital state for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome was $66,700.
  • 1,022 children in Delaware were placed in out-of-home care due to their parents’ drug or alcohol use in 2019.