$3 million anonymous donation to help babies affected by drug abuse

  • Tym Rourke, director of Substance Use Disorders Grantmaking at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, speaks at a press conference in Concord on Oct. 10 about the $3 million donation at the organization’s headquarters. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Dr. Daisy Goodman of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon speaks at a press conference at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in Concord on Oct. 10 about the hospital’s plans to create an integrated program for expectant and new mothers to treat addiction and prepare them for parenthood. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/10/2017 6:41:09 PM

New Hampshire babies born to drug-addicted mothers received a leg up Tuesday.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation announced a new fund created with an anonymous $3 million donation to assist mothers with substance use disorders and their children.

Nearly 470 New Hampshire babies were born exposed to drugs last year, compared with 367 in 2014, according to the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. Concord Hospital alone recorded 70 substance-exposed births in 2016.

In addition, more babies in the state are being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a result of exposure to drugs in the womb. Babies with NAS are essentially born in withdrawal – they suffer tremors, rashes, sleep deprivation and seizures, among other symptoms.

The Charitable Foundation grant money is being distributed to organizations in the state already committed to helping families. Around $600,000 has been allotted to organizations like the Community Health Institute, Families in Transition, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. The rest will be distributed in a three-year process.

At Concord Hospital, that means adding a part-time social worker focusing on high-risk obstetric cases. This social worker will work as a liaison between prenatal and postnatal care.

Hope on Haven Hill in Somersworth, a newer treatment facility serving homeless, pregnant and newly parenting mothers who are in recovery, will also receive grant money. The organization has cared for 85 women and babies since opening in December, according to Courtney Tanner, the organization’s executive director.

“Every day I get to witness the resilient women in our program. They work hard to succeed in treatment and embrace recovery while simultaneously learning to care for their babies and become the best moms they can be,” Tanner said. “It’s intense, but they’re succeeding, and we’re behind them while they do it.”

Caring for pregnant women with substance use disorders can be complicated. Some may be using more than one substance, and many are struggling with co-occurring mental health issues, trauma, homelessness, poverty and domestic violence.

Fear is a major reason women suffering from substance use disorders don’t seek treatment, said Tym Rourke of the Charitable Foundation.

“They’re afraid of the stigma; they’re afraid of the perception that they’re bad people; they’re afraid of the perception that they somehow do not deserve the care,” Rourke said.

“It is our hope that for moms who are struggling with their own substance misuse, that they don’t hide in the shadows – that they come out, they seek help from the recovery community, from the health care providers that are caring for them and their potential babies, for the community at large – that they take that courageous step, because there are people like our donor ... who are waiting to help,” Rourke said.

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