Category Archives: Drug Abuse

Victory through faith and family

Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family

Healthy Families participants Adam and Shannon Sawyer and family visit Tallahassee to meet with members of the legislature and share how Healthy Families helped their family.

Guest post by The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Healthy Families Florida is a nationally-accredited family support and coaching program that helps parents provide the safe and stable environments children need for healthy growth and development. The program has proven to be highly successful in preventing child abuse and neglect. Healthy Families participants Shannon and Adam Sawyer share their experience.

When we enrolled in Healthy Families, Adam was incarcerated and fighting drug addiction. I was pregnant and bouncing between family members looking for a place to sleep. We were without jobs, without a home, and without much hope for our future.

Then I met Joan, our Healthy Families Support Worker. With her guidance, I learned positive ways to deal with stress and how to be the best mom I could be, even when times were tough.

When Adam was released from prison, he was connected to a residential rehab program. We knew that most addicts have a low rate of success and that we would face a lot of challenges when he came home for good. Joan helped us set goals for when he got out. It has been hard work, but I’m happy to say he has been sober for 3 years now.

We wanted a place of our own, so Joan taught us how to save money. Within five months we had saved enough to move into our own place with our children. Our family was doing much better but we knew we had a long way to go. Joan helped us get job training and today we both have good jobs.

Healthy Families also helped us become better parents to our children. Having little ones is tough, even when things are going well. Joan showed us how to discipline our children in positive ways, how to play with them and how to help them learn.

She helped us improve our own relationship, too. We learned how to communicate with each other, how to set goals and achieve them together.

We wanted to have a better life, and Healthy Families helped make that possible. They believed in us when no one else did. Now our family is stable and our children are thriving. We are so grateful for Healthy Families.

To learn more about Healthy Families Florida, voluntary program for expectant parents and parents of newborns, visit www.HealthyFamiliesFla.org.

Learning what true love is

Guest post by Merrilu Bennett, Communications and Media Coordinator at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Central Florida, one of DCF’s community-based care organizations. The Children’s Home has been in existence for more than 100 years and provides residential, therapeutic, emergency shelter and foster care to hundreds of abused, neglected and troubled children from across the state each and every year.

Allen’s mother was a drug addict who had abandoned him numerous times during his young life. She would leave him with friends or relatives for months at a time. The last time she left him, she didn’t return.

When she was finally tracked down and contacted by authorities, she said she didn’t want him back and then she disappeared.  Authorities could find no friends or family members willing to take care of him. His father, who Allen has never met, was in prison.

Florida United Methodist Children’s Home

Florida United Methodist Children’s Home

So at the age of 7, Allen was placed at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in our residential care program in the hopes it would provide him with much-needed structure and stability. “Stable” and “structured,” however, are the last two words that could be used to describe Allen’s initial behavior. During fits of anger he would shove rocking chairs, benches and even a bicycle off the front porch of his cottage.

One morning, one of our staff members sat with Allen when he refused to attend school.  She explained to him that she wanted him to go to school because she cared about him and his future.  Between sobs, he exclaimed, “My momma cared about me, and she never made me go to school!”

Living with a drug-addicted mother who didn’t care if he went to school was all this fragile little boy had known as love. And he also knew that “love” had been taken away from him.  He didn’t know his mother’s behavior and his childhood weren’t normal.  It was all he had ever known. Our job here at the Children’s Home was to teach Allen what “normal” really was.

The transformation did not take place overnight, but over weeks and months noticeable differences in his attitude began to take shape.  He began to attend school without argument and also began to participate in on-campus activities like sports.

Today, two years later, Allen plays football with a league in the community.  He not only enjoys school, but also helps other young residents understand the material.  In January he was recognized as our “Resident of the Week” because of how helpful he is.

Allen is just one of the hundreds of children we serve who just need to know they are loved. It takes time and it takes patience.  It also takes an unwavering belief that we can make a difference. But seeing the children grow emotionally – and learn what true love is – is more powerful than any bumps in the road along the way.

If you are interested in mentoring a child, donating time or items, or becoming a foster parent, please contact me at Merrilu.Bennett@fumch.org. It is an honor and privilege to work with these children and to share their stories. We welcome all volunteers who want to make a difference in their young lives.

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in mentoring or fostering in other areas of Florida, please visit www.fosteringflorida.com to find a local fostering agency. 

Giving and receiving

Guest post by Franklin Monjarrez, Executive Director of Neat Stuff Inc. This past year, more than 5,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Miami-Dade County visited Neat Stuff and received more than $1.3 million dollars worth of clothes and uniforms.

Early one afternoon a young boy, about 4 years old, came into our store for free clothes. He was in his PJs, his only possession. As I got closer to him I saw about 15 burns all over his small face. When he saw me he extended his arms for me to hold him.

The lady with him, his aunt who had just received temporary custody of the boy, told me I looked like his dad. The one who had caused those horrible burns on his face. The father was a crack addict and had burned the boy with a lighter.

Despite all the pain he had just gone through, this boy was just looking to give and receive love. I picked him up and played with him awhile. We gave him all the clothes and supplies he needed.

Stories like this happen all the time – the aunt bravely stepping forth to care for nephews and nieces. The grandma raising grandkids. The caring couple who takes in abused children and tenderly helps them heal. The holidays can be a hard time for these families, so we decided to make it just a little easier by organizing a turkey giveaway.

Turkeys ready for delivery to families

This past Saturday, Neat Stuff had the pleasure of sharing the joy of Thanksgiving with 111 foster care advocates and adopted families. Each family received a turkey and a grocery bag loaded with cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, gravy, marshmallows and stuffing!

Our annual turkey giveway brings together the best and brightest of our Miami community.  The turkey and trimmings distribution effort was made possible by generous donations from Publix Super Market Charities, Sam’s Club and Neat Stuff’s Board of Directors.

At the store where at-risk kids can get free clothes (Franklin is in the blue Neat Stuff shirt)

Grandma Mary said it best, “For the past three years I have been coming to Neat Stuff to receive free clothes and uniforms for my grandkids. I’m so happy I was able to receive a turkey this year. This agency feels like a second home to us.”

We are so thankful for all the community partners who help us help families every day. We wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Delivering a turkey

Stuffing bags of food for families.

Neat Stuff volunteers (Franklin is in the blue Neat Stuff shirt, third from left)

We must protect Florida’s newborn babies from drug addiction

Guest post by William Liu, M.D., corporate medical director of Pediatrix Medical Group of Florida, Inc. and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit medical director of The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida

From 2005 to 2010, Lee County hospitals have seen a 700 percent increase in the number of babies born with a drug addiction.  Statewide, based upon data from the Agency for Health Care Administration, this problem has increased by about 430 percent in the same time period.

When a baby is born addicted to drugs, the child goes through withdrawal similar to how an adult going through rehabilitation would. Withdrawal in babies can include uncontrollable crying, inability to sleep or eat normally, throwing up, diarrhea, sweating, breathing problems, and in severe cases, seizures. This should not be the way for a human being to enter the world. Watching a newborn go through withdrawal is absolutely heartbreaking.

However, once a woman who is dependent on narcotics becomes pregnant they should not try to stop taking the medication, whether prescribed legally or taken illegally. If the mother tries to go through withdrawal while pregnant, the baby in the womb is at risk for active withdrawal, leading to poor development, early delivery or even death.  Instead, a controlled treatment program is suggested, with methadone presently considered the most effective drug for pregnant mothers who are addicted to pain killers.  To avoid this complication, it is extremely important that women are drug-free or have a pregnancy plan BEFORE they get pregnant.

Prescription drugs are a growing concern and it appears that the increase in babies born addicted to drugs is directly related to an increase in prescription drug abuse.

Today, unlike the cocaine epidemic of the 1970s and 80s, pain killers are legal and legitimately prescribed for pain relief.  While there are mothers with a history of addiction and doctor shopping, there are also mothers who claim surprise, shock and dismay, unaware and uninformed of the potential consequences of their treatments, having acquired their prescriptions legally and under the trusting care of a doctor.

The great majority of physicians are dedicated to the betterment of their patients, doing their best to balance many factors to achieve the best possible outcomes.  However, the art of medicine utilizes a complex decision tree, weighing risk and benefit on many levels.

State and national awareness is indeed increasing, but the problem still exists – and is growing. I urge women of child-bearing age who are currently on prescription pain medication, illegally or legally, to talk to their doctor about a pregnancy plan, just in case. No baby should have to experience the pain of drug addiction or withdrawal, especially during their first days of life. 

Note:

For information about substance abuse and mental health facilities in your area, visit our online searchable directory.

Pain pills and cocaine in the suburbs: One mother’s story

Guest blog post by Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Recovery Center Clinical Director Dr. Jeffrey Ferraro.

“Mrs. R.” voluntarily came to the emergency room saying that her life was out of control. After examining her, it appeared she had not slept for days.  She had track marks on both arms and was disheveled and crying.

Her husband had asked for a divorce and told her that he was taking her three children away.  She states she has been using approximately $300 worth of cocaine a day and is snorting more than 200 mg of Roxicodone daily.  She estimates that she has spent more than $75,000 in the past year purchasing drugs off the street.

The patient pleads with me in the emergency room to admit her to the hospital because she’s fearful that if she continues using drugs at this rate that she will soon die.  Since I agree with her, she is admitted for detoxification.

Throughout her hospitalization, the patient finally stabilizes after five days of detoxification.  She talks about the severe amount of shame and guilt she has because of her actions.  The patient reports that over the course of the past year her life has turned into a nightmare.

She says that 18 months ago she received a promotion and became a nurse manager of a large surgical center.  The patient says her husband had also been doing well running his independent finance company.  She says that her three children respected her and were doing well in school.

She describes her initial drug use as being a way “to get more things done during the day and manage her busy lifestyle.”  She reports that she would take pain medication in order to improve her mood and give her more energy.  The patient states that her casual use of opiates quickly progressed to daily use and to the point that she could no longer function without pills.  She reports that she started stealing prescription pads and was writing for medication for herself in addition to taking it from patients that she came into contact with that were having surgery.

She left the hospital and directly entered a residential substance abuse treatment facility several towns away from her family.  The patient spent 30 days in their program and was discharged to an intensive follow-up treatment program near her family.  She reports that she has been sober for the past six months and is starting to get her life back on track.  I am amazed at the progress that she’s made and rebuilding her life since our interaction in the emergency room.

I wish that I could say her situation is unique to my practice, however I do see on a daily basis everyday people who fear receiving treatment because of the stigma surrounding addiction.  Mrs. R, like so many other patients I treat, was afraid to disclose her disease to others secondary to the guilt and shame that haunted her.

This brief summary of her clinical case was an attempt to reinforce the fact that the disease of addiction affects everyone independent of their socioeconomic status and background. I also want people to know that there are successful evidence-based treatments available to help the families in individual struggling with the disease of addiction.

Notes:

Name and details have been changed, but post still represents a typical case.

If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse or mental health issues, please take a look at the many resources available to Floridians on the DCF website.