Ridgeview Behavioral Health Services in Oak Ridge is pioneering a program for mothers who are battling addictions. MIST (Mothers and Infants Sober Together) is a program developed to help mothers who are struggling with drug and other addictions as well as babies with drug dependencies. This program was started seven years ago and is funded in part by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Michelle Jones, program director of MIST, has been working toward educating these mothers and other family members about the dangers of being addicted while pregnant.
“Children were being born drug exposed in this area…we started out in Anderson and Roane county but we have grown due to the specialized substance abuse treatment for this population,” Jones said.
Since their start in 2008, MIST has grown from two counties to five including Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, Roane, and Scott.
Jones says, “In these rural counties, there’s not as much education and treatment…they need help here.”
As part of the treatment, Jones likens it to a “step program.”
“We have group sessions as well as individual sessions which are very helpful,” she said.
Another part of the program is in-home work which starts out as two hours a week and decreases to one hour per week.
Part of the campaign against drug use and pregnancy is the health of the child. Sheri Smith, nursing director for Critical Care Services at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says that 55-94 percent of babies born to mothers who have taken opioids could be born with NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome).
East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has a state-of-the-art facility that specializes in helping babies born with NAS.
To help the baby, all private rooms are darkened and quiet, which allows the baby to feel safe and like they are in the womb. Smith equates what the babies feel like to severe migraines for adults.
Some of the symptoms are: tremors, shakes, and high pitched cries. Smith best describes the babies as inconsolable infants.
Stays of the babies varies from case to case, but the average length of stay is 14-21 days.
Many other areas in the South as well as the rest of the country are trying to model programs to be like MIST and the NAS unit.
If you would like more information on the MIST Program, please call (865) 482-1076 or email [email protected].
For more information on the NAS unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital please visit www.etch.com or call the hospital main line at (865) 541-8000.
See a video on the MIST Program and the NAS unit here:
Savanna Schubert is a freelance contributor to Oak Ridge Today.
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