In many parts of the country, expectant moms are given first priority to enter medication-assisted treatment for pain pill or opioid addiction. Treatment in Texas, however, does not need to begin until the child is born, and so the mothers often go through the entire pregnancy disregarding the need for help.
Andrea Grimes of the online news service Reality Check has reported a couple times on women who are pregnant and require opioid addiction treatment in Texas. It appears that Governor Rick Perry signed legislation in Texas that protects fetuses but excludes pregnant women from being charged with crimes against their own fetuses. So that means if a driver kills a pregnant pedestrian, they could face charges for the death of two people—the mother and the fetus—but if a pregnant woman needs opioid addiction treatment in Texas and fails to get it, resulting in the death of the fetus, then they cannot be charged with harm to the fetus.
Grimes describes that many prosecutors nevertheless press charges against pregnant women who using controlled substances, including those who require opioid addiction treatment in Texas. An attorney from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) keeps an eye on local news stories for cases of pregnant women arrested for substance abuse. She contacts these women’s lawyers and tells them the accused women have not yet committed a crime. For the most part, despite a media brouhaha in which the women’s faces are displayed on the evening news and in the newspapers, the charges are dismissed. But even though this advocate is upholding the law and just doing her job, she actually does believe the women should be held accountable for seeking opioid addiction treatment in Texas.
There is a mandated reporter law in Texas, and it covers babies born addicted to opiates. Opioid addiction treatment in Texas is not required of pregnant women, despite the law that views fetuses as live persons. The mother has no motivation to seek treatment; the baby is born addicted; the doctor reports it to children’s services; and the baby is taken into state custody.
More Women Seeking Opioid Addiction Treatment in Texas
Fortunately, more and more women are seeking out opioid addiction treatment in Texas. Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje writing for my MySA (San Antonio) reported that the babies born to mothers who are taking methadone for opiate addiction have increased by 134 percent. Doctors and nurses welcome the increase, because it means more pregnant women are getting help, and they simply work on detoxing the babies with gradually decreasing doses of medication.
Take the case of Navy veteran Jessica DeSamito, as told by Grimes. DeSamito completed her military service and, like many veterans, began using pain pills illegally in order to self-medicate—another story altogether about veterans addicted to opiates. She was arrested and later paroled. When she discovered she was pregnant she sought opioid addiction treatment in Texas because she worried that withdrawal would cause her to miscarry her unborn baby. During treatment, she tested positive during a drug screen and went back to jail, although by this time she was 25 weeks along.
Desperate to protect the health of her unborn baby, DeSamito sought help from the NAPW to obtain methadone treatment while in jail. Most jails refuse to provide methadone for opioid addiction treatment in Texas and throughout the country because they are not approved opioid treatment programs. In DeSamito’s case, she won the right to go on ankle monitoring and receive methadone treatment at home. She was even permitted to receive methadone maintenance therapy in jail while she awaited the decision regarding her treatment.
Progress, Gradual But Active
But treating newborns for methadone addiction comes with a price tag. Caring for one addicted newborn in a neonatal ICU for a month can cost up to a half million, according to Stoeltje. Thankfully, most babies do not need such extensive care. Children’s Services will not take custody of the baby if a newborn’s mother can show she is already in a methadone program, participating in opioid addiction treatment. In Texas, there are places like Project Carino that help women find the social services they need.
Despite the dichotomy in laws for pregnant women who need opioid addiction treatment in Texas and their unborn or newborn babies, the pendulum is swinging full circle. For many new mothers, their methadone treatment is free if they continue their participation with Project Carino and their drug screens show no drug use.
That means it’s easier than ever, if you’re pregnant and addicted to opioids, to get the care you need. Your doctor will most likely prescribe buprenorphine—brand name, Subutex—over methadone for the duration of your pregnancy. If the clinic does not offer buprenorphine, then the other medication option will be to take methadone.
Everyone at your medication-assisted treatment program will wait for your child’s birth eagerly to see how your newborn does. Rest assured that medical technology provides great care for today’s newborns addicted to opiates. You can remain on Subutex while you breastfeed. Your baby will stay in your care. Your life will find joy in your new life with your baby. All you need to do is get started by calling your local opioid addiction treatment program.