a bird and a bottle


The Treatment & Child Care Gap
January 30, 2007, 8:03 am
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, reproductive justice

I wrote yesterday about the perils of policies that allow for the prosecution of pregnant women who have a drug problem. In that post I called for treatment instead of prosecution. What I didn’t mention was how difficult it is for pregnant or parenting women to find treatment programs that will accept them. And then Women’s eNews went and did it for me today with an article charting how difficult it is for women, but especially for pregnant or parenting women, to get into treatment programs that will accept them with their kids.

Among [drug-addicted] women the lack of child care is a major issue, said Sharon Amatetti, senior public health analyst and women’s services coordinator for the federal mental health agency. “There is not a great capacity to offer treatment programs that either have child care–so women can bring their children–or offer residential treatment for women and children. That’s a continuing problem that we’ve been aware of for a long time. The problem is that providing residential beds for families is an expensive model of care.”  In 2005 less than 15 percent of U.S. treatment facilities accepted women who were pregnant and-or had children, according to the agency.

Yes, treatment for families is more expensive than treatment for single individuals. But it still costs less than a prison bed. And it’s a much better option in terms of public policy. Instead of forcing children into foster care and giving mothers criminal records that will constrain them their whole lives, families in treatment programs can stay together, learn appropriate skills, and leave healthy.

Even when treatment programs do exist for women with children and accept Medicaid as payment, they are often not specifically focused on the needs of women and on the unique causes of their addictions.

Raquel Jeffers, acting director of addiction services for the State of New Jersey, estimated that for every mother who receives substance abuse treatment at least one more is in need of these services.

She said she did not believe that mothers who abuse drugs and alcohol are being served in proportion to the problem. “The services aren’t client-centered and aren’t always addressing these women’s very complex needs,” Jeffers said.

And still, prosecutors and state legislatures continue to blame pregnant women. For not getting one of the few treatment beds available (as Lynn Paltrow noted in her recent San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed, a pregnant woman in Amarillo, TX would not have a single treatment bed available in a 100-mile radius). For not “choosing” sobriety over addiction. The choice, we are told, is the women’s.

But with so little treatment available and the threat of prosecution looming large, it’s a false choice.

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1 Comment so far
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Very informative. Thank you.

Comment by Kelley Bell




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