Local clinic creates safe haven for pregnant women impacted by substance abuse – WSOC TV

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Addiction often comes with stigmas. But imagine having a substance abuse issue and also being pregnant.

Women who find themselves in that situation often have few resources.

However, Channel 9′s Susanna Black reports that expectant moms struggling with addiction in Cabarrus County are being welcomed at one clinic with open arms.

Brooke Kennedy said the bond she has with her three-month-old son, Christian, is undeniable.

“I love him. I read books to him. I talk to him. We play,” Kennedy said.

But there was a time when Kennedy said she thought moments like those would never happen for her.

“This addiction has taken away a lot of people from me,” Kennedy said. “It stole my life.”

Kennedy said she took her first pain pill when she was just 14 years old.

After a medical diagnosis and a car accident left her in chronic pain, her pill use spiraled.

She said it turned into an opiate addiction that robbed her of everything good life had to offer.

She said she tried several times to get clean, but came up short every time, causing social services to eventually take her daughters away from her.

About a year old, Kennedy said her little boy and a recent move to Cabarrus County changed her path.

“I got pregnant. And once I found out I was pregnant, I got introduced to the Sun Clinic,” Kennedy said.

The Sun Clinic is located with the Cabarrus Health Alliance and provides support for pregnant women dealing with substance use disorder.

The organization said part of the support is clinical, providing prenatal care by an OBGYN, ultrasound and fetal monitoring, medication treatment like buprenorphine to help patients ward off cravings, as well as mental health services.

The clinic also offers social support, such as case management services and recovery and peer support.

“I’ve never had the level of gratification like I do with these patients,” Dr. Russell Suda, medical director of The Sun Clinic, said.

He said he spent most of his 43-year career as an OBGYN without really understanding patients with substance use disorders.

“I really didn’t want these patients. And it was not something I worried about if they didn’t come back,” Suda said.

He said he believes that the stigma in the medical community is still alive today, which is why he wanted to create a safe haven for those women.

Suda said he believes the supportive model is working.

Out of 40 patients that have been treated through the clinic so far, there has been zero infant or maternal deaths.

The clinic said more than 91% of women have delivered their babies at 35 weeks and up.

Suda said another factor that is helping the mothers is the opportunity to eat, sleep with and console their babies in the hospital after delivery.

He said it’s a part of a new program at Atrium Health Cabarrus Hospital.

Traditionally, babies with signs of withdrawal would be whisked away from their mothers, straight into the newborn intensive care unit.

“They dropped the NICU time for babies with substance exposure and neonatal abstinence syndrome from 11 days in the NICU to 5.5. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you realize what these babies really need, more than pharmacologic help, is bonding to a mother,” Suda said.

Kennedy said she doesn’t know where she or her son would be without this program.

She said she wants other women in similar situations to know this resource is out there.

“I didn’t have support, a network or family there for me. Or people I can lean on. And this time I did. And that’s why it worked for me. It’s hard, but you can beat this,” Kennedy said.

The Sun Clinic is collaborative across Cabarrus County, with several stakeholders like the Cabarrus Partnership for Children.

You more information about the program here.

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