Clinic Combines Pregnancy Care and Addiction Support – Ashland Tidings


Dr Kerri Hecox, left, and peer support specialist Jillian Mahon discuss patient care in the family playroom at the Oasis Center in Medford. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune

Dr Kerri Hecox

Jill mahon

Rogue Valley Oasis Center helping moms, babies

Pregnant women with addictions are often too ashamed and afraid to talk to their doctor about their drug and alcohol use.

The Rogue Valley Oasis Center in Medford is trying to change that by providing supportive, stigma-free prenatal care and addiction assistance.

“One of the biggest barriers for women with substance use disorders who find out they are pregnant is stigma and shame,” said Dr Kerri Hecox, Medical Director and Founder of Oasis Center.

Women are much more likely to speak openly about their substance abuse issues at Center Oasis.

This is a radical departure from what Hillary Handelsman often sees in other prenatal care providers. A certified nurse practitioner and nurse midwife, Handelsman is part of the Oasis team and has provided care in various settings in Rogue Valley.

She remembers a woman who turned to another antenatal care provider. The woman was a heavy daily user of heroin.

“They said, ‘Are you using drugs?’ She said, ‘No.’ And they moved on. It’s a huge, huge lack in someone’s life to miss out on having an addiction. It’s the most important thing that can be missing. It becomes so much. central in someone’s life when they’re really engrossed in their addiction and they’re struggling, ”Handelsman said.

She said drug addiction typically affects a woman’s and her baby’s health, relationships, housing and job stability, and her ability to be open with her doctor.

“It’s a huge lack that you can’t really take care of that person. They’re not telling you the most important part of what’s going on in their life right now,” Handelsman said.

The Oasis Center has been providing primary care combined with addiction treatment and recovery support for over two years.

The center received a $ 600,000 state grant to provide combined prenatal, addiction and recovery care for the next three years. The centre’s Nurture Oregon pilot program began in March and has brought together up to 25 women and their infants.

Statewide, eight sites are part of the pilot program, Hecox said.

She is monitoring the results to see if the Oasis Center can reduce medical problems, such as babies born too early or with low birth weight.

Babies born to mothers with addiction, and even those on the road to recovery, may end up needing expensive care in hospital neonatal intensive care programs.

Hecox hopes it can show that the program is cost effective and deserves long-term state support.

She also wants to reduce the suffering of mothers and babies.

Hecox may prescribe drugs that ease opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as oxycodone pain relievers and heroin.

Soon after people start taking opioids, they start to experience severe withdrawal symptoms such as pain, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and irresistible cravings when not consuming it. Their addiction turns into a relentless search for more drugs to avoid getting sick.

Handelsman remembers a woman who had to give birth while in weaning.

“Right after giving birth, she was so driven by her addiction not to feel so sick that she left her baby in the hospital to come out and find more heroin,” Handelsman said.

The woman wanted to be a loving and caring parent, but she had not received addiction help or medication to help manage withdrawal symptoms, Handelsman said.

Women who have not sought treatment for their substance use are often “exposed” in hospital through drug tests when they come to give birth.

Child welfare workers from the Oregon Department of Social Services need to get involved and judgment needs to be made on whether the new mom can safely raise her baby, Handelsman said.

“By the time they have given birth and they are the most vulnerable and have this newborn baby that needs them right now, everything is falling apart,” she said.

Babies can end up with foster families or be sent to live with parents.

Babies born addicted to drugs can experience the same withdrawal symptoms as their mothers. The pain and discomfort make them cry, and they have difficulty eating and sleeping. Sleeping even an hour at a time is a major achievement for a weaning baby.

This means that a new mom or anyone caring for a newborn is exhausted and frustrated, Handelsman said.

“When you can’t comfort your baby and it lasts for days and you’re battling your own addiction, it’s totally overwhelming and dangerous,” she said.

Hecox said babies who undergo weaning are at greater risk of abuse and neglect. Mothers face a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Early intervention during pregnancy can make all the difference, putting women on the road to recovery before giving birth.

Hecox said the Oasis Center provides comprehensive care to help before, during and after birth.

“We are really excited about this program,” she said. “We have a peer mentor and a pediatrician as well as a mental health therapist working with us. these families have a chance to have a bright future. ”

Oasis Center peer support specialist Jillian Mahon knows what it’s like to fight drug addiction and motherhood.

During an eight-year struggle with drug addiction, she had to give her daughter to a foster family.

When she found out she was pregnant again, she received treatment from Hecox and gave birth to her clean, sober son. He is now 2 years old and Mahon has regained custody of his daughter.

Through his work as a peer support specialist, Mahon wants to show people that there is hope.

“I really think it’s important because we’ve been there and we’ve been through it and we are successful in life,” she said. “That people can see this gives them hope. When you have an addiction, you lose hope. Seeing someone who has followed the same life path as you and come out on the other side is life changing.

In addition to emotional support and mentoring, Mahon can help families access resources such as shelter, food, clothing, and other needs.

Also a doula in training, Mahon will be able to meet future mothers before they give birth, accompany them to the hospital and ensure follow-up visits.

She recently helped a mom who gave birth to twins. Mahon said the woman has grown up and become self-sufficient and is a great mother to her children.

“It’s just amazing to see the transformation that has taken place in her,” said Mahon.

How to get help

For more information about the Oasis Center, call 541-200-1530 or visit

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @vickiealdous.

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