YOUR HEALTH: A new program to help pregnant addicts save their child and themselves

BATON ROGUE, Louisiana – The opioid epidemic is claiming children who are not even born yet.

Every 15-minutes a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal.

The moment Courtney Saylor realized she was pregnant, her life changed.   At the time, she was addicted to heroin, which put her health and her baby at risk.

"It had become such a way of life that I couldn't even get out of bed or do my daily activities of life without it in my system."

That's when she enrolled herself in the GRACE program at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge.

Many hospitals provide medication-based treatment, the GRACE program provides participants an extra layer of accountability by assigning them a nurse and a social worker and connecting them with outside resources.

"We're finally understanding that addiction is a disease of the brain, and being able to relate that to actual disease, makes it easier for us to understand how to treat," explained Kiona Hayes, GRACE program case manager.

Now, one year after launch, Woman's Hospital says it's seeing results.

While untreated substance use in pregnancy can lead to preterm birth and low birth weight,

93% of infants in the GRACE program were born at term and they were born almost three-quarters of a pound heavier than babies of mothers with opioid use disorder who didn't participate.

Courtney stuck to the program without relapse and welcomed a perfectly healthy daughter born on the Fourth of July.

The GRACE program is one of a few of its kind in the U-S.

Organizers said they modeled themselves after a similar program in Cincinnati and they are working to become a model for other hospitals to treat pregnant women with opioid use disorder.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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