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Ballard clinic fights the odds for addicted mothers, babies

Pregnant and addicted mothers find hope at one of a kind treatment center in Seattle.

SEATTLE — For 25 years, a clinic in Ballard has been providing services for chemically addicted women. The Addiction Recovery Center at Swedish is the only clinic to offer treatment to women at any point in their pregnancy, working to protect babies born addicted.

“We want to stabilize a mother with medication so that early in the pregnancy we don't have a miscarriage possibly. And later in the pregnancy, we won't have preterm labor,” says Lee, a charge nurse for the program.

He says when the patients are admitted they are immediately deemed medically unstable. Nurses and doctors work to keep the patient physically healthy, while drug and alcohol counselors work to address the mental health issues associated with substance abuse.

The counselors are trained in dealing with trauma which is something many of these pregnant mothers have faced living on the streets.

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“Typically, a lot of times they come in and they're just you know, they're in tears. They're afraid,” explains Nina, a drug and alcohol counselor who admits these women into the program every day.

And they are busy. The recovery center takes in one to three mothers per day. Dr. Vania Rudolf says they work hard to admit as many patients as possible, unfortunately they struggle to accommodate everyone and often are forced to re-direct patients. That is a huge difficulty because their program is one that can accept women at any gestational age.

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If the women stay through pregnancy, the center has continuing care through their “compassion” support program. It’s an extended 5-day postpartum stay for women and their babies -- a blessing for moms struggling to stay sober.

Of the women who take advantage of the extra support, only 14% end up giving up their babies into foster care. That number climbs to 50% for women who leave right after giving birth.

Right now, according to the National Institutes of Health, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal every 15 minutes. It’s a sad statistic but at the Addiction Recovery Center the entire team remains committed to battling those odds. 

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The Treatment for Pregnant Women with Chemical Dependency is available to women in any stage of pregnancy using any substance; drug or alcohol. They accept all major medical insurance and Medicare, but medical insurance is not required for admission.