The ongoing opioid crisis has no distinct face. Anyone can suffer from addiction, regardless of income, demographics, health, or age. Pregnant women and their newborns represent an affected demographic with unique struggles.
When a woman enduring an opioid addiction gives birth, her baby inherits that addiction and starts suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Infants treated for NAS essentially undergo all the same symptoms as adults who experience withdrawal. In order to help those newborns and their families, Franciscan Health established a program called the Grace Project.
“Its main focus is to work with women who are currently pregnant and to help with their basic needs,” said Erin Neu, Nurse Navigator for Women & Children Services at Franciscan Health Indianapolis. “We had one mom in particular who was having her third child. She had been in a treatment program for about a year but couldn’t afford to continue paying for it.”
The Grace Project stepped in to help that woman stabilize her life and finances, letting her focus on raising her two kids and soon-to-be newborn.
“The Grace Project helped fund her treatment for the next thirty days, which was hugely beneficial,” Neu said. “At the end of her pregnancy she had a lot of stress, and having the baby added even more. We paid her current rent and the next two months so that she wouldn’t need to worry about eviction and could focus on caring for the baby and following her treatment goals.”
Other families receive help with bills and transportation costs. The Project also provides necessities such as formula and diapers. It even helps moms and dads enroll in parenting classes.
“I feel like the Grace Project really highlights Franciscan’s value of respect for life,” said Traci Schank, a social worker at Franciscan Health. “It helps give everyone a chance of living a full, fulfilled, and sober life. It lets them feel they can provide for their children. It gives these moms and these babies the start that they need in life.”
The Grace Project provides a platform for parents to regain control of their lives while their newborn receives essential care.
“With my embarrassment about my addiction, my shame about it, I thought ‘I’m an addict, who’s going to help?’” said one anonymous Grace Project participant. “Then [with the Grace Project], I found out there are people who care about people like me.”
To learn more about the Grace Project or to make a contribution, visit franciscanhealthfoundation.org/programs/grace-project.