In Depth with Brad Byrd

Brad Byrd In-Depth: Pregnant women addicted to opioids

Eyewitness News continued it's special initiative on Wednesday called "A Community in Pain." We're teaming up with the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office and the Mayor's Substance Abuse Task Force to address the ongoing opioid crisis. 

Thanks to a $150,000 grant, Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare plans to begin a program called "Stepping Forward." It will be a 10 bed, transitional facility for pregnant women battling drug addiction. The facility will help wean pregnant women off the dangerous chemicals and onto Subutex, a safe medication used to battle opioid dependence.

Brad Byrd talks with Lori Grimm, the director of perinatal services at the Women's Hospital, and Katy Adams, the director of addiction services for Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare, about the programs to help pregnant women addicted to opioids and how it impacts their newborn babies.

Transcript of Interview:

Brad Byrd: "Welcome to In-Depth we continue our "A Community in Pain" initiative. Eyewitness News has teamed up with the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office and the Mayor's Substance Abuse Task Force to address the ongoing opioid crisis. Tonight, our focus is on pregnant women addicted to opioids and other substances -- and the impact it has on their newborns. My guests tonight are Lori Grimm -- the director of perinatal 
services at The Women's Hospital and Katy Adams -- the director of addiction services for Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare. Let’s first talk about neonatal abstinence syndrome. Describe that for me, because this affects some very precious commodities we have here in the Tri-state - our babies." 

Lori Grimm: "Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a set of symptoms that come when mother has taken substances during her pregnancy, whether those be opioids, legal or illegal substances that she has consumed during her pregnancy." 

Brad Byrd: "And Katy, we have been talking about just the education about all this. Women who may be using pain medications, legally prescribed pain medications or possibly illegally using certain opioids or other drug substances. The education… are there some women who really do not understand what they are consuming, the baby is consuming."

Katy Adams: "I think that’s very true and I think Lori can speak more to that. But I think that women don’t realize that everything they ingest goes to the baby and the baby is also exposed to. So part of our mission is to partner together and to try to intervene early to kind of stop this process." 

Brad Byrd: "And Lori, I was fascinated. I’m trying to visualize this and imagine in that ... a newborn baby that weighs maybe 8 pounds or even less, on withdrawal. Describe that for me." 

Lori Grimm: "Well, it’s very similar to an adult who’s going through withdrawal, it’s just in a really small person. But babies will exhibit this by being really fussy, and irritable ..." 

Brad Byrd: "Now, we’re talking about newborn infants." 

Lori Grimm: "Yes. Difficult to soothe, will have a high-pitched cry, sometimes they’ll have trouble coordinating their suck, and they’ll want to suck excessively, but yet have difficulty feeding.  Um, they’ll be jittery. In severe cases, these babies might even have seizures and require medications in order to treat the withdrawal symptoms."  

Brad Byrd: "And sometimes this is not picked up until after the baby is born because many women, obviously, take care of themselves during the pre-natal period but those women who may not get the proper care during the pregnancy, that’s when this kind of sneaks up on everyone." 

Lori Grimm: "Yes. So some babies, like they may have withdrawal starting as soon as one day of life, but some babies it can take up to seven days." 

Brad Byrd: "This 10-bed facility, with this grant $150,000, it’s a transitional facility. Describe that for me as far as how it will help pregnant women who have been addicted or close to addiction." 

Katy Adams: "Sure. Well, Southwestern Behavioral Healthcare is starting this program through  our Stepping Stones services, called Stepping Forward. And it’s a transitional residential program for women with addictive disorders who are pregnant.  And so, what we’re hoping is that we can start and intervene early during pregnancy to help moms stay sober through the remainder of their pregnancy … give them the services they need for their addiction treatment. Help them deal with what trauma, anxiety or depression they may have. Give them pre-natal skills. Get them connected to medical care through the Women’s Hospital. And then also, after pregnancy, to come back and stay with us with their newborn and continue to help them with their early recovery skills and being parents to their newborns." 

Brad Byrd: "And there are success stories on this, Lori. You know, we’ve been talking some through this initiative and segments that we aired earlier today on Eyewitness News. But, we can talk about behavioral patterns and what have you, but we are talking about infants too, Is this problem growing? I believe last year 30 reported at the Women’s Hospital… babies addicted." 

Lori Grimm: "Yes. We had 30 babies with the diagnosis of NAS, which is up from previous years that we’ve had. So we’ve seen a little bit more instance of NAS in our hospital." 

Brad Byrd: "And when you see that, from an emotional standpoint, I mean ... is this a battle that we’ve fallen behind on? Or is this something that it’s just coming to light because we’re recording these instances more efficiently?" 

Lori Grimm: "I think it’s a little bit of both. I think a lot of people don’t realize that the substances that they’re taking are affecting their babies and that’s why it’s really important if you are newly pregnant, you need to be very honest with your provider when you are seeking healthcare. That you tell them everything that you are taking during your pregnancy so that they can help prevent this NAS delivery, if possible." 

Brad Byrd: "And sometimes that's tough to do. Katy, confronting the problem if you are alone ... say you are a mom to be ... how do you make it across that threshold just to make that phone call or seek help from a family member to call for you?" 

Katy Adams: "There is so much shame associated with this disease of addiction and especially for pregnant moms when people are looking at them and asking 'Why can't you do this for your unborn child?' And so, there's a lot of shame, and pride, and ego involved in this. But the reality to all this is we're all human. We all are messes so to speak, and we all go through hard times. And this is a disease, and there's hope in all this. There's recovery. We really want to wrap services around these pregnant women to be successful and more forward with the hope of recovery." 

Brad Byrd: "There's always hope when I hear the lullaby music out there at the Women's Hospital. And what is your gut feeling on this, Lori, this transitional facility. Do you think this is the right way we're going and will help more people here in the Tri-State?" 

Lori Grimm: "I really do. I think this is something really important in our community to get started because there is a real barrier for a pregnant woman to get the addiction services they need. Because addiction, like Katy was saying, has a stigma and women are supposed to care for there babies and women would never expose their babies to these types of things. So, I think this is the right step forward to get care to these women during their pregnancy." 

Brad Byrd: "And very briefly, how do they make that phone call? How do they get in touch?" 

Katy Adams: "To access treatment, you would call Stepping Stone. That number there is 812-473-3144 or they could visit our website at to kind of look at the services that we provide. But our phone is answered 24 hours a day, and we're ready to take that call." 

Brad Byrd: "Okay. Head to Google then and look for Stepping Stone and get help. Thank you so much for being with us tonight. I know this is going to be an ongoing discussion as this initiative continues, but thank you so much Lori, and thank you so much, Katy." 

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(This story was originally published on January 24, 2018)

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