Agencies work to address cases of pregnant women addicted to opioids

By Brie Jackson - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - In 2016, a Public Health Emergency was declared for Virginia's opioid addiction crisis, it's an issue affecting people from all backgrounds and age groups. Some of the youngest victims impacted include newborn babies whose mothers abused drugs. In recent years, agencies have seen a growing number of cases involving heroin and opioids.

Laura Nyman said drugs once had a hold on her.

"If I couldn't get oxycodone then any other type of opioid like morphine, anything I could find" said Nyman.

At the time, she was pregnant with her youngest son and continued to use narcotics even though she knew it was wrong.

"I was really lucky that my son was born healthy and that he didn't have to be on methadone or he didn't have withdrawal symptoms," said Nyman.

The mother of three turned to Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare for help. Patricia Spangler works with "Project LINK" which provides specialized services to pregnant or parenting women. She says the agency has seen a growing number of cases involving heroin and opioids.

" Not being able to carry a pregnancy to term, low birth weight with the babies, sometimes there are developmental delays and sometimes death," said Spangler.

Spangler says the program served between 90 to 100 women in each quarter of 2015. Then in the first half of 2016, Project LINK saw its numbers drop to about 70 she says. Staff say the decrease is partly due to more agencies working together to provide services.

"We find ways to streamline the process so that from the time a mom is identified as using drugs and referred to us we can do warm handoffs," Spangler said. "If they need housing or childcare, any kinds of services, then we know who to go to and we can talk between ourselves."

Through the transition process, Project LINK has been able to serve more people causing women on the program's wait-list to now able to get help. Nyman says the program helped her overcome her addiction and become a better parent. She hopes sharing her story encourages more people to reach out for help.

"Especially for pregnant woman, it is extremely important that you find help because that baby is going to suffer for these choices," said Nyman.

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