About half of the folks that I see in my practice on a daily basis suffer from the opiate epidemic And then we see a lot of collateral damage with the kids and the out-of-home placements. “I ended up losing my kids to CPS and it was because of drugs.” We’ve seen an increasing number of newborns born at our facility and within our community that were being placed into Child Protective Services due to moms testing positive on the day of delivery for an illicit substance. In 2016, we placed 1,150 children out of their home. That’s about one in ten children. “I was using street drugs: heroin, meth, percocet… and I conceived Grayson. I know for a fact me and Grayson wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for First Steps to Healthy Babies. Nonetheless my other three kids would be absent as well. I can pretty much guarantee we wouldn’t be sitting here. I probably woldn’t even be alive. We would have moms come in and they would test positive on the day of delivery. And maybe they’ve had zero prenatal care prior to that because they were fearful. Or they just didn’t feel that that was a priority — or whatever the case may be — but at that point the baby is placed on a child protective hold and almost always is placed in protective custody. “Over the past decade we’ve had annual meetings with all of us coming together and saying, ‘Yes, we’re seeing this increasing trend. We did a lot of brainstorming at those meetings as to what a potential program could look like. Through that became the First Steps to Healthy Babies program. First Steps to Healthy Babies is a collaborative program designed to help moms reduce their use of opioids and be able to take home their baby from the hospital instead of having the baby go into the child protection system. The program’s goal is to improve the outcomes for these infants being born to mothers that are using during their pregnancy. We can not only reduce the impact of that baby prenatally with exposure, but we can also hopefully help mom set up a safe healthy environment for her to discharge home with her baby. And we see that happen very often now with our program. First Steps to Healthy Babies an excellent example of a county system, a city system, and a behavioral health system — and bringing all those folks together. And really provides that foundational level for those folks to benefit from those systems as a whole. “I do believe that Sanford’s been a partner in community health. I think that they’ve stepped up to the plate to work with community partners to just come up with solutions to some of these huge problems.” I just thought the program was a good idea since I was pregnant. I started it and I got my kids back. It just changed my life and made everything better. “These women really do need support. They need help. They’re not there because they want to be there. “A lot of women do fear that their children will be removed if they come forward and seek help. Certainly safety of children is always our first priority, but if a mom comes forward and we are able to help her — and keep her safe — and her other children safe.. you know there’s a possibility that the outcome could be different for her. Our numbers of babies going to out of home placement have decreased since we initiated and started this program.” My kids mean the world to me, and they’re nobody else’s responsibility but my own. “We want the women to feel safe and we want them to be able to disclose, And that’s even if they’re having a hard time — if they have a little bit of a relapse — because we want to help them get through it and get them on the right track as soon as possible. “The problem is growing at a faster rate than we can address it, so every baby that gets to go home with a mom is a success.” It’s just indescribable how happy everybody is… They know they’re gonna take baby home, and they work so hard for that.” I feel fabulous about seeing a baby that actually gets to go home with their mom that’s been on this program. And as they move forward and continue to develop that recovery capital in their lives… How is that going to affect the next generation? “After he was born, I can’t even explain the emotion that came over me. I’m at a loss for words, but it’s very empowering and just knowing with me working with First Steps to Healthy Babies and knowing that all the struggles I went through, I was able to put behind me, and knowing my baby was coming home…” Year over year, over year our numbers of babies that were placed on a child protective hold steadily increased. And last year for the very first time ever that number actually plateaued. So that tells me that even though the opioid epidemic is still — you know — going strong in our communities… we’ve at least been able to intervene and make a difference for that number to stop climbing. And hopefully we start to see that number actually decreasing now. “Doing nothing is just not an option right now. I know we’re heading in the right direction because we aren’t standing still. “It’s affecting everybody. It’s affecting our children. You know it’s gonna trickle down and we need to do something now. We need to step up and it’s up to us to do it.” Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help. No matter what it is. I’m a firm believer people do deserve a second chance. People can change. I’m a walking figure of that. And if I can do it anybody can do it.