As maternal mortality rates rise, Colorado advocates want to shift to bring recovery to mothers where they are.
GOLDEN, Colo. — According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdoses and suicide are the leading causes of death for new moms in Colorado. And so often, moms struggling with mental health and addiction feel overlooked, as people rush to make sure their baby is OK and leave them behind.
Up three flights of stairs in a historic Golden building, sitting around a table in a cramped room is a group of people try to save those moms lives.
An emergency room doctor, pediatrician, social worker, pharmacist, and a mom in addiction recovery are all a part of MOMs+, Maternal Overdose Matters.
“The fear of losing your child, and if you’re child’s ill, usually you’re forgotten about right, so the focus is on baby and not mama,” said Racquel Garcia, the founder of the recovery organization, Hard Beauty. “But a well mama can move mountains. I’m a well mama who got well and so we really believe in making sure that mom is taking care of as well as baby.”
Garcia is not only the founder of Hard Beauty, but she is 13 years in recovery from alcohol and drugs, and her kids and connection to others were her catalyst for change.
At Tuesday’s meeting, they had a breakthrough while discussing the process of Child Protective Services when moms with an addiction give birth.
“No it’s like a bundle,” said Dr. Don Stader, an emergency physician and associate medical director at Swedish Medical Center, and an opioid policy expert. “It’s like we’re concerned about this child but we’re also concerned about mom.”
With every Child Protective Services referral in the labor and delivery room, they want a peer support person and a treatment referral for mom.
They hope to pilot this at the 10 Colorado hospitals MOMs+ partners with.
“That’s where coaching and peers can come in to hopefully maintain some hope while their building on themselves because I’ve watched too many moms lose hope In that moment and just say screw it and literally go the total opposite way and then I can’t get them back,” said Garcia.
She has watched how punishment and separation from children drives mothers deeper into addiction.
“We don’t have to die,” said Garcia. “We can find community. And the opposite of addiction and suicide is connection. And that’s really what we’re offering.”
She knows those connections bring moms back to their kids.
“It was wise women for me in knitting groups,” she said. “My tattoos say ‘knit’ and the other one says ‘purl’ because there wasn’t a sober group, but there were some wise old ladies and they would sit with me and they were nice.”
The goal of peer support and offering treatment is to give hope at the same moment when everything seems like it’s being taken away.
“And I’ve been able to help out while mom goes to treatment and mom gets better,” said Garcia. “And that’s really what this is about.”
Garcia recently partnered with the state to do virtual support meetings for moms and pregnant people struggling with addiction every Monday night called Tougher Together through the campaign, Tough as a Mother.
“Sometimes I’m looking for a certain attitude,” said Garcia. “Tough as a Mother is a community of women who are not only able to hold the light but also the dark of women.”
It doesn’t cost a thing, and she hopes this can be what her knitting group was to her: Connection without judgment.
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