GCASA sees success with ‘Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies’ program

Posted 12 August 2021 at 2:20 pm

By Mike Pettinella, GCASA Publicist

Photo courtesy of GCASA: Jessica Budzinack is GCASA’s parent/family support and project specialist.

The Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is making a difference in the lives of women dealing with substance use issues while trying to raise a family, according to Jessica Budzinack, the agency’s parent/family support and project specialist.

“During the past year, we have been able to connect with parents or family members that need individualized support, putting a primary focus on pregnant and post-natal women and women who have children that were exposed to substances in the womb,” Budzinack said.

“Parents in recovery or parents that struggle with addiction have different needs and different barriers that they need to overcome.”

The initiative is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance awarded totaling $500,000, said Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, GCASA’s director of Project Innovation and Expansion.

Mangino-Crandall said the specific program is funded by an HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (RCORP-NAS) grant.

The HRSA RCORP-NAS program places emphasis on pregnant women, mothers, and women of childbearing age who have a history of, or who are at risk for, substance use disorder or opioid use disorder, and their children, families and caregivers.

At GCASA, Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies specifically supports pregnant and post-partum women with substance use disorder and their partners and children as well as anyone caring for a child exposed to substances in the womb.

Services include case management (including connections to treatment, healthcare coordination, and assistance with social determinants of health), parenting peer support, recovery peer support, and transportation and childcare assistance.

Budzinack said the program offers “coach-like peer support to parents and their families.”

“We work with them to overcome obstacles, such as navigating the Family Court system, helping them find extra support for their children and helping them … connect to different organizations or resources that they need to help them be successful parents,” she said. “We also connect them with our Prevention team, which offers active parenting classes and other forms of education.”

She noted that she also has been able to assist mothers with children in foster care.

“We do what we can to help during the process of trying to bring them home. We help them navigate in that area to achieve those goals,” she said.

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies staff are committed to lifting mothers and children with self-esteem issues as well.

“Another thing that they face is stigma,” Budzinack said. “They kind of feel like the world is shaming them for making that decision. Our job is to make them feel comfortable and responsible, and educate them to the best of our ability. Education is a big thing.”

Mangino-Crandall said the project utilizes the research-based Positive Direction Model created by Dr. Davina Moss-King to help pregnant women prevent and mitigate the effects of substances taken during pregnancy on their babies.

“This includes properly taking prescription medication such as MAT (medically-assisted treatment) medications as well as illicit drugs, alcohol and misused prescription drugs,” she said. “Women who receive medically-assisted treatment have different needs, and there’s much to consider in those cases.”

Budzinack mentioned the high level of uncertainty and fear faced by pregnant women on MAT who have just given birth.

“They have so much to think through,” she said. “How does this affect my pregnancy? What’s going to happen after I have the baby? Just to have someone that they can talk to without judgment, to make sure they know the importance of her health and the health of that child.”

She said she worked with a woman last summer who was pregnant and had two daughters in temporary foster care.

“We helped her to meet the criteria for the Office of Children and Family Services to bring her children back home while she underwent medically-assisted treatment to maintain recovery,” she explained. “Through support of a case manager, participating in The Recovery Station (on Clinton Street Road) and taking advantage of active parenting classes, things are working out for her.”

Budzinack said the woman has made a concerted effort to get her children back and that commitment has paid off. Her baby is going to be a year old in a couple months and both of her older daughters are back home with their mother.

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies is backed by a consortium that includes the following original partners: Oak Orchard Health, Lake Plains Community Care Network, and Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

More recent partners include Oak Orchard WIC (Women, Infants and Children), Genesee and Orleans County Mental Health Departments, United Memorial Medical Center, UMMC Moms Program and Orleans Recovery Hope Begins Here.

For more information or to make a referral, click here or call Budzinack at 585-813-8583.