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UA grant funds rehabilitation for moms

$1.6 million will boost new program

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Working mothers battling substance abuse in Pima County have a new opportunity for treatment.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration awarded the University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) a $1.6 million grant to create a unique treatment plan for working mothers and their families.

Working Poor Mothers of Minors (MOMs) is a six-month treatment program that will help women with residential treatment, affordable housing, parenting classes and therapy.

SIROW was one of 20 U.S. organizations that received a combined total of $29.1 million in funding in the fall of 2011, according to a UA press release.

After four months of planning, they are ready to start treating women and their families.

The UA institute has seen a need for programs to support working moms since 1995 said Sally J. Stevens, SIROW's executive director and senior project advisor on the grant.

“Since that time, there has been a gap between who can get served and who doesn’t,” Stevens said in an interview.

In order to qualify for the state-funded rehabilitation, income levels must fall below the federal poverty guideline. The Department of Health and Human Services determines the guidelines annually and according to household size.

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A family of three would need an annual income of less than $19,090 to qualify. SIROW’s program will serve those who make up to 200 percent above the poverty guideline but are uninsured or still unable to afford treatment, the UA said.

Two months of residential treatment usually costs $15,000 at The Haven, said Karen Smith, The Haven’s director of operations. The Haven is a nonprofit women’s rehabilitation center collaborating with the MOMs program.

To qualify for the program women need not hold a full-time job. They can be volunteers, waitresses, or even the neighborhood babysitter.

“Their job is the last thing they’re clinging to and to give that up, that will actually put them a step back,” Stevens said.

The 142 women SIROW hopes to serve will receive treatment cost-free because of the grant, they estimate they will also service an additional 214 children and 189 family members, the UA said.

“We would like to improve their economic and employment opportunities while they’re in the program,” Stevens said.

A 'Haven' away from home

Many of the women are “polydrug users” said Stevens. They turn to a variety of drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, prescription drugs and alcohol, aside from a drug of choice.

In residential treatment, the women live among other recovering substance abusers as well as counselors and staff. They eat, sleep, and recover under one roof.

“It’s quite like a dormitory here at the University,” Stevens said.

Some of the women may have had traumatic stress in their lives, whether it took the form of domestic abuse or other molestation. These issues are not always addressed in outpatient therapy where the women have to return to an unsafe environment when their scheduled hours of therapy are over Stevens said.

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At The Haven, help is available any time of day.

“They can be safe (physically) first of all and second they would be emotionally safe,” Stevens said.

The six-month program begins with two months of residential care at The Haven. Three to four women will live at the center at a time over the next three years.

“These ladies are busy from early morning until evening,” Smith said.

Daily activities include meditation, community meetings, group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention, gardening, and classes that educate women about healthy relationships.

While some of the women will be pregnant, many have children. These children will have the opportunity to stay with their mothers while in treatment and receive therapy of their own.

“We’re really thinking about the whole family, not just the mom,” Stevens said.

A partnership with the Arizona Children’s Association, a child welfare and behavioral health nonprofit, and Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, another behavioral health group, will help with the treatment and classes.

“We want to make sure they are supported in raising their children and put new tools in their toolbox of parenting, ‘ said Kim Metz director of the Parent Connection, one of the programs under the Arizona Children’s Association.

Participants in the MOMS program will take part in an eight-session series that will cover parenting styles, values and misbehavior among other topics. Pregnant women can take classes on newborn care.

Similar classes also will be offered to a relative or close friend to help the mother in the program. All of these classes will expand a recovering mom’s “support structure,” said Metz.

Four months and beyond

After their stay at The Haven, MOMs will connect women with affordable, safe, low-income housing through Compass Affordable Housing.

“All too often, women will do well in residential, but then back in that environment they slip and start using drugs or go back to maybe an unhealthy relationship,” said Stevens.

The four months of continuing care will help stabilize the situation and propel the women into a healthier lifestyle, she said.

The program will evolve and change to meet the needs of the women over the three-year course.

A peer-working group of three to five current or past MOMs participants will provide feedback to SIROW and staff.

“A lot of times we think we know what works best for them, but a lot of time they are really the experts,” said Stevens.

The hope is that this research will expand the knowledge of the most successful treatment approaches and also spread awareness in the community.

“The second (goal) is to really educate the community and try in the best way we can to reduce the stigma around women who use substances,” Stevens said.

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MOMs collaborators

To apply for the program or for more information, contact The Haven's intake department at 623-4590.

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