Delaware gets drug treatment for women with children

CLAYMONT, Del. (AP) — Delaware’s first substance abuse treatment center for pregnant women and mothers will open this summer, serving up to 20 women struggling with the disorder.

The residential treatment facility, the first of its kind in Delaware, will be operated by Gaudenzia, Inc. in Claymont. The non-profit organization currently provides a recovery home with support for pregnant women and their children, but this is a lower level of care than a residential treatment facility.

Gaudenzia offers these services in other states, and the latest partnership with the state’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health will now bring the much-needed service to Delaware. The organization hopes to open its doors to the higher-intensity service on July 1, with discount services expected to be available in the fall.

“This is a historic day for Delaware, Gaudenzia and for a population that desperately needs treatment services,” Gaudenzia CEO Dr. Dale Klatzker said in a press release. “Research shows that family-centered treatment for pregnant women and mothers is a smart investment with immediate and long-term economic and social benefits.”

The $3.2 million contract, funded by federal dollars, follows the annual report from the Division of Forensic Sciences, which found that overdose deaths rose more than 15% in 2021 to 515 in the Delaware, continuing a deadly trend seen across the country during the COVID -19 pandemic.


Overdose deaths rose 5.4% in 2020 in the first state, with 447 deaths statewide, up from 431 in 2019.

Women accounted for 32% of overdose deaths last year, according to the report. People aged 31 to 40 accounted for the highest number of deaths at 144, followed by those aged 41 to 50. Most overdose deaths have occurred in New Castle County.

Seventy percent of women with substance use disorders also have children, but may avoid treatment due to lack of childcare or fear of losing custody of their children, according to Gaudenzia statistics. As a result, Delaware has the fifth highest rate of pregnant women with substance use disorders.

There was a 148% increase in births of substance-exposed infants to Delaware women between 2015 and 2019, further underscoring the need for improved services.

The proposed treatment facility, which will utilize Gaudenzia’s existing space at Claymont, will have one floor providing high-intensity, clinically managed residential treatment for 10 women and another floor for lower-intensity services for 10 women.

Both options will include onsite medical and psychiatric services, case management, onsite child care, meals, room and board. There will also be 24-hour supervision and access to medical, clinical, child care and support staff.

Women can receive this treatment while up to two children each live with them in the facility.

Joanna Champney, director of the Division of Addiction and Mental Health, said Delaware doesn’t want pregnant people and parents given the choice of going out of state for services or forgoing them altogether.

“We hope that by having services in the state, patients will no longer have to leave state lines to access those services. It was a critical gap in the system that we identified,” Champney said. “There was a sober life for pregnant women and mothers, but real inpatients in drug treatment should leave the state.”

Gaudenzia began talks about opening a residential treatment center in Delaware last year amid the exit of Connections community support programs, which was one of the largest providers of mental health treatment. and state drug addiction.

As Connections settled federal fraud allegations and was purchased by Pennsylvania-based Inperium Inc. after filing for bankruptcy, the nonprofit’s downfall has resulted in the closure of salvage homes that don’t has only exacerbated the lack of services for pregnant women and mothers struggling with addiction in Delaware.

Gaudenzia wanted to change that. The non-profit organization already offered a supported recovery home, called Safe Haven, for up to 10 women and their children in Claymont, but it lacked the higher level of care than a treatment facility. residential would provide.

Gaudenzia opened her first facility for pregnant women and mothers in 1979 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It currently operates 14 centers for women with children in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

Gail Hannah, executive director of Gaudenzia Eastern Region, said one of the main differences with a residential treatment facility will be services for the whole family.

“Children will also receive services. We will meet the needs of the whole family,” Hannah said. “Even if there are children who cannot come for treatment with the mother, we would integrate them into the services.”

Champney said the state will monitor use of Gaudenzia’s program and may expand accordingly. Meanwhile, other providers have stepped up to expand sober living options as well, she said.

While some people may need hospital care to treat a substance use disorder, others may not need this high-intensity care. Meanwhile, those who use hospital care end up retreating to a sober living environment, often staying longer in that setting, which also increases demand for those services, Champney said.

“The addition of Gaudenzia programming fleshes out the different levels of care and meets the diverse needs of the population,” she said. “There’s a whole continuum of care for treatment.”

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