By Scott Halasz
XENIA — United States Congressman Mike Turner had a first-hand look at the what the Women’s Recovery Center in Xenia is doing to help combat a new twist on the area’s growing heroin problem — babies being born addicted to the drug.
Turner (R-Dayton), who has been working since December to try and address the problem, visited the center on Thursday, speaking with the staff and residents to get an update on their success.
“Director Michele Cox and her team have been able to offer life-changing assistance to mothers and babies throughout our community who are coping with heroin addition and its harmful effects,” Turner said. “I look forward to continuing to partner with the experts at the Women’s Recovery Center as we develop a community response to combat this growing problem.”
The area has a recognized issue with heroin use and overdose. But until recently, little has been documented in the way of the heroin epidemic’s impact on infants being born to addicted mothers. Turner first became aware of the problem in December, when Greene Memorial Hospital - Soin Medical Center President Terry Burns informed him about the number of heroin-addicted babies being born at the hospitals each year.
“He told us we can make a difference,” Turner said. Since then, Turner has taken a series of steps to confront this widespread and increasing problem.
In March, he brought together regional medical experts for an initial meeting in his district office. In May, Turner visited the NICU at Dayton Children’s to see the work their nurses were undertaking to battle and treat infant drug withdrawal. In June, Turner partnered with the Greater Dayton Hospital Association to host a community forum on heroin-exposed newborns that brought together relevant partners throughout southwest Ohio to begin to develop a community response to this issue.
The ultimate response is a plan to get pregnant mothers help as quickly as possible.
“The earlier we can intervene … the better,” Cox said. “It’s so worth it in the end when your baby is born drug free. Not a lot of people know where they can receive services. There’s a lot of women who need help that don’t know where to go get it.”
The Women’s Recovery Center is one of the few local programs providing the gender-specific residential program. The only other option for detox is incarceration.
“That certainly isn’t the way it needs to be done,” Turner said. “There is a gap overall in our system. Our community is going to have to pull its resources together. It’s going to take a region-wide response. It goes across county lines.”
Burns said Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Root and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine are exploring what their offices can do. Once a plan is in place, Turner said he can begin to tackle the ever-important funding side of the program.
But funding or lack thereof won’t stop Burns.
“I can’t stand still … that’s why I contacted Turner,” he said. “We’re looking to understand the problem more and move forward where we can, when we can.”
Scott Halasz covers Xenia and Greene County for the Xenia Daily Gazette. He can be reached at 937-502-4507.