New Drug Law Tests Infants, Sends Moms to Jail

By Monique Brunson Jones, WeNews commentator
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Tennessee law designed to punish women who use drugs while pregnant can only hurt, not help, babies being born with withdrawal. We need more drug treatment programs, not laws like this that will deter women from seeking help.

CHICAGO (WOMENSENEWS)  Tennessee prosecutors recently announced that they would temporarily delay pursuing assault charges against Mallory Loyola, the first woman arrested under a new Tennessee law designed to prosecute women for “assault . . . while pregnant” if a newborn tests positive for drugs.Under a deal, she will remain in custody until a bed opens up for her in a Knoxville treatment facility, with her hearing postponed until February, when prosecutors will decide whether to proceed after assessing her progress in rehab, Reuters reported.This is a step in the right direction, but it also underscores the problem. What we need are more drug treatment facility beds, not more beds in prisons. That’s not only humane, it saves money. Continue reading

Alcohol use combined with domestic violence: a problem for families July 30, 2014
by Tracy Kiesler

Domestic abuse is a broad term covering many different types of abuse. Verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, and financial abuses are all categorized as “domestic abuse” or “domestic violence.” Any of these types of abuse are extremely challenging to live with and survive, much less thrive. Unfortunately a coping skill that one might use to cope is escape through drinking or drug use. When the person doing the escape through drug or alcohol use is a mother it puts the child or children at even further risk of damage from the abusive situation. Children suffer emotionally, behaviorally, psychologically, and socially when living with domestic violence. Gallup has been tracking Americans’ drinking behavior for more than seven decades. One of the major changes they have seen is an increasing percentage of Americans saying alcohol has caused problems in their family. When first asked in 1947, 15% of Americans said alcohol had been a cause of family problems. On July 27th 2014 Gallup posted poll results of 36% percent of Americans reporting alcohol being the cause of family problems.… Continue reading

Treating Addiction in Pregnant Women and New Mothers: A Promising Application for Social Impact Financing?

By Kate Greenwood

Cross-Posted at Health Reform Watch 

Last week, ran an interesting article by Laura Krantz on the difficulties pregnant women and new mothers who are addicted to drugs have accessing not just drug treatment but also all of the other services and supports they need. Krantz reported on a hearing before the Human Services Committee of the Vermont House of Representatives at which a new mother in recovery from addiction, “a neonatalogist, a substance abuse clinician, a Health Department employee and a representative from the Phoenix House, a residential treatment facility in Brattleboro … all said women need not only treatment, but housing, transportation and help finding jobs.”

Alice Larned, a substance abuse clinician at the Lund Family Center in Burlington, told Krantz that spaces in residential detoxification facilities are increasingly scarce. The demand for transitional housing for women who have completed inpatient detoxification also exceeds the supply. Add to this the sad fact that women can wait a year or more for an appointment with a physician who can treat them with methadone or buprenorphine. Larned told Krantz that many of the women who start treatment with her are taking buprenorphine they bought illegally, an “indication they want help ‘yet we don’t have the legitimate means for them to get this medication[.]’” Continue reading

Born in Prison

by , Author of Prison Baby, A Memoir

Huffington Post, 7/17/14

Cut off from the heroin I’d grown used to, as a newborn I battled through withdrawal. I was born in prison where my incarcerated mother was serving one of her many drug-related sentences. She was a heroin addict.

I Was a Heroin Baby

Her substance abuse started when she was a teen, and like many incarcerated women today, her addictions landed her in prison after prison. On one of her brief stretches of freedom, she violated parole and was also pregnant with me. Continue reading

First Woman Charged Under Tennessee’s Controversial Drugs-During-Pregnancy Law

First Woman Charged Under Tennessee’s Controversial Drugs-During-Pregnancy Law

 @NolanFeeney – July 14, 2014

The new law has garnered criticism from the state’s American Civil Liberties Union and others

A woman in Tennessee last week became the first person to be charged under a controversial state law that can count illegal drug use during pregnancy as assault.

26-year-old Mallory Loyola was arrested July 8 and charged with misdemeanor assault after she and her newborn baby tested positive for meth, ABC News reports. Monroe County Sheriff Bill Bivens told a local news station in Knoxville, Tenn., that Loyola admitted to smoking meth days before the birth of her child. Continue reading

Should a Mental Illness Mean You Lose Your Kid?

By Seth Freed Wessler, Special to ProPublica

This story was originally published on ProPublica and was co-published with The Daily Beast.

In August 2009, Mindi, a 25-year-old struggling new parent, experienced what doctors later concluded was a psychotic episode. She had been staying in a cousin’s spare basement room in De Soto, Kan., while trying get on her feet after an unexpected pregnancy and an abusive relationship. She’d been depressed since her daughter was born and was becoming increasingly distrustful of her relatives.

Isolated, broke and scared, one Saturday morning, she cracked. She woke to change her 5-month-old daughter’s diaper. When Mindi looked down, she believed the baby’s genitals had been torn.

Mindi’s mind raced for an explanation. The one she came to? That her baby had been raped the night before; that someone—she did not know who—had put sedatives in the air vents.

Mindi called her pediatrician’s office. A receptionist told her to take her daughter to a children’s hospital in nearby in Kansas City, Mo. Doctors there found no evidence that the girl had been harmed or that any of what Mindi claimed had actually happened. Continue reading

Addiction and Motherhood: Sheila Ganz has a Powerful Story to Tell

From the Duffy’s Napa Valley Rehab blog

Addiction is hard—we all know that. But as a mother, going through an addiction means your baby girl or little boy goes through it with you.

The documentary, On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery tells the gripping stories of five mothers battling addiction while trying to care for their children.  Since its premiere in April, the film has been the official selection at three major recovery film festivals including the REEL Recovery Film Festival in San Francisco Bay Area Edition.

Artist, Sculptor, and the director/producer of the documentary Sheila Ganz, sat down with us for a few minutes to answer questions about the film. Before jumping into the Q&A, here’s a brief synopsis.

About On Life Terms: Mothers in Recovery

The film takes you on the three year journey of mothers recovering at Center Point, Inc., a women and children’s residential treatment program in San Rafael, California. The palpable stories of the mothers de-stigmatizes addiction and promotes the discussion of treatment vs. incarceration (leaning heavily towards treatment, of course).

The trailer accurately portrays what the full 56 minute film is all about. Continue reading

Drug czar slams criminalizing moms as Haslam mulls veto

The Tennessean, April 28, 2014, by Tony Gonzalez

Drug Czar

The top White House drug policy czar said Monday in Nashville that he couldn’t comment on the decision Gov. Bill Haslam must make today about whether to sign legislation that would criminalize women who use drugs while pregnant. Then he let fly. “Under the Obama administration, we’ve really tried to reframe drug policy not as a crime but as a public health-related issue, and that our response on the national level is that we not criminalize addiction,” said Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “We want to make sure our response and our national strategy is based on the fact that addiction is a disease.” Continue reading


Every Mother Counts – 5/27/14

Maternal Mental Health is more than the absence of mental illness.
Mental illness pervades news stories on a tragically regular basis when we read about violent individuals so ill they can only see the world as a frightening, hostile place. But these situations fail to represent the real magnitude that mental illness takes on society.  Far more often,  people with mental illness suffer in silence, with very little attention paid to the impact their illness makes on their lives and families.  When it comes to maternal mental illness, we know that about 20% of pregnant and newly delivered mothers will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder. We read about mothers with “simple” cases of baby blues and mothers who become manic or incapacitated with depression as a result of hormonal imbalance and extreme sleep deprivation. We hear about mothers so floored with mental illness they attempt and often succeed in harming their babies, children or them selves to prevent them from living what they see as horrifying lives. We read a lot about individuals who suffer with mental illness, but far too little about systems of support created to help them; even less about what it takes to create mental health.

We think of maternal mental illness as something that only happens shortly after birth, but a new study conducted in Australia indicates that motherhood’s impact on a woman’s mental and emotional stability is far more long lasting than previously thought.  In fact, their data suggests that more mothers are depressed during their child’s fourth year than even during the oh-so-challenging first.  The conditions that seem to set women up for depression during year four are previous reports of depressive symptoms either in early pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth, young maternal age (18-24 years), stressful life events/social adversity in the year prior to the four year follow-up, intimate partner violence, and low income.  The study concluded with recommendations that mothers be followed more closely and for longer periods of time to observe for symptoms of mental illness and they reinforced the need for a greater focus on mental health. Continue reading

A Mother’s Day review of a new documentary on recovering moms

Review by Scott Stevens, Author, “Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud”

My recent appearance at the REEL Recovery Film Festival in San Francisco coincided with the world premier of the documentary “On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery.”  I met filmmaker, Sheila Ganz, afterward and have nothing but the greatest admiration for the work she has done.  This is a gripping one-hour that’s a MUST SEE film on women facing tough odds with an eye on reuniting their families after facing their addictions.

Sheila follows five new moms facing legal challenges and the removal of their children in a criminal justice system too often known for heavy-handedness and mistreatment, rather than compassion and treatment.  The film follows the mothers through gut-wrenching stories, tears, reluctant acceptance, then growth into their “aha” moments… through the years following their program commitment and reuniting with their children.  There’s also the draw of old relationships and the pull of old ways of thinking and resentments, even months and years after the moms get clean and sober.  Those moments I believe were intentionally left in the final cut to prove that all of us are recovering, not cured.  I covered my eyes, telling the screen, “DON’T DO IT.”

And all this is VERY well done. Continue reading