Every day, April Behory works with mothers and babies suffering from drug addiction.
“It impacts everybody and everything for the rest of their lives,” Behory said.
She’s the director of Woman/Child Services at Conemaugh Health System. She says she understands what those families go through on more than just a professional level.
“[I] lost a parent to drug, alcoholism. I’ve had older brothers that have been, you know, addicted to drugs. I’ve watched it destroy lives,” said Behory.
She explained that becoming a new mother is stressful. On top of that, poverty, lack of family support and abuse can prevent recovery.
“The vast majority of women with substance abuse disorders have a history of either sexual, physical abuse or both,” said Dennis Hand, the associate director of Jefferson University Hospital’s Maternal Addiction Treatment Education and Research Program (MATER) in Philadelphia.
Hand said there is an alarming number of mothers and babies suffering from opioid addiction, especially in rural areas like Cambria County.
Friday, he and Aetna Better Health of Pennsylvania leaders met with Conemaugh and other health care professionals, treatment centers and support groups to address the problem in Cambria County.
“In this county – that has about 160,000 people in it; that has about one-tenth of the population of Philadelphia – they have almost as many substance exposed births as we do,” Hand said.
Conemaugh received a $500,000 grant through the Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program to launch a similar maternal treatment program in the county. They want to connect new moms to treatment, support groups and other services: food, transportation, childcare and education about healthy pregnancies.
“How do we connect all these dots,” Behory said.
The issue hits home with Behory. Her sister, Jennifer, suffered from drug and alcohol addiction and died at 24-years-old.
“She was drinking and that’s what takes over. And she was in an auto accident,” Behory said. “If you’re a child growing up through this or a parent dealing with something or a sibling, I got it and I understand it. So, that’s one of my biggest passions in this.”