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Staff photo, Brooke Self
Registered Nurse Maria Fraser, a Clinical Supervisor of the Child Protective Services Program in Pomona, gives a presentation about perinatal substance abuse to doctors and nurses from Barstow Community Hospital.

Maternal substance abuse a concern at Barstow Community Hospital

About 10 percent of pregnant women are drug abusers


BARSTOW • Barstow Community Hospital staff are trained to detect drug abuse among pregnant women, which is important since between 10 and 12 percent of mothers admitted have a drug addiction, with the most prevalent drug being methamphetamine, according to Obstetrics Nurse Lauren Stapp.

“It’s a significant concern because when we find mothers who have a drug dependency it has a major impact on the pregnancy,” OB Director Susan Wooley said. “For instance, cocaine addiction causes premature delivery and it can affect the baby’s development.”

The hospital has a contractual agreement with Pomona Valley Hospital for transportation and care of high-risk and preterm babies as Barstow Community doesn’t have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“We need a little more resources in the community because of transportation problems,” Stapp said.

According to Wooley, when a mother comes in and shows signs of drug abuse the hospital must first do a drug screening. If the drug screening is positive, it is reported to Child Family Services.

“We are required by law as a health care provider to report it,” Wooley said. “But in the process, we do everything we can to provide the support to assist them and help them get on their feet.”

While substance abuse is a major concern of hospital staff, a baby’s health and keeping families together are two of their top priorities she said.

“Don’t judge. We want patients to feel safe and let them know we want to help them,” according to several nurses at a meeting discussing perinatal substance abuse at the Family Follow-up Center on Thursday.

Any kind of addiction is problematic because of the social and economic impact it could have on the baby, according to Wooley.

“When they are spending all of their money on their addiction, the little discretionary that they have, it limits the resources they have to provide for their family and children,” she said.

In certain cases where there is not a good home environment or the mother doesn’t have a support network, a baby is taken into protective custody like foster care while hospital staff try to do their best to rehabilitate the mother and get the baby back home.

“It’s not uncommon for a baby to be permitted to go home and particularly if its the first child,” she said, “if the family is in a home with the essential services like electricity, water and food. But that decision is not ours to make.”

Case workers from Child Family Services, formerly known as Child Protective Services, work with the mothers on a case by case basis. About one out of three births by drug abusers doesn’t go home, Stapp said.

“It just kind of depends on the situation,” she said.

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