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Press Release

Fear of Losing Children Keeps Women Who Use Alcohol and Drugs From Seeking Care

February 23, 2009

A local health department has launched a unique campaign to encourage women who use alcohol and drugs to seek prenatal care and get the resources they need to have a healthy baby.

Studies show women who use alcohol and other drugs often do not seek prenatal care because they are afraid they will automatically be reported to authorities. Recognizing that prenatal care is vital to the health of the baby and mother, the Contra Costa Health Services Bridges to Care project has created a toolkit to provide guidance to health care providers. The project aims to make prenatal care an environment where pregnant women who use alcohol and drugs feel safe seeking care and where they will be able to get help to stop or reduce their alcohol and drug use, said Sarah Roberts, coordinator for Bridges to Care which is run by CCHS' Family Maternal and Child Health Programs (FMCH) and funded with a grant from the March of Dimes.

"We conducted focus groups and interviews with women who use alcohol and drugs and found that the number one reason for delaying entry to prenatal care was fear of being reported and losing their child," Roberts said. "We also found that health care providers were uncertain about reporting requirements. This tool kit provides clear guidance to health care providers on when they need to report a woman to CFS and even more importantly how to get a woman the resources she needs so she can have a healthier baby."

The toolkit includes updated Children and Family Services (CFS) reporting guidelines and resources to help pregnant women who use alcohol and drugs stop or reduce their use, such as treatment programs for pregnant women.

Roberts said the toolkit, which was created with the help of CFS, CCHS' Alcohol and Other Drug Services and prenatal care and labor and delivery providers, is now being distributed to health care providers who serve pregnant women and trainings are being conducted on how to use the toolkit.

This training is important for health care providers, said Michelle Bushong, Perinatal Clinical Nurse Educator with CCHS' Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez.

"As health care professionals, we want healthy outcomes for pregnant women. We want them to have a healthy baby and most of all we want to keep mother and child together. Information in the toolkit helps us work effectively with at risk mothers so all this can take place," Bushong said.

A second phase of the project includes a community-awareness campaign, designed with input from the women themselves, to encourage women who use alcohol and drugs during pregnancy to seek prenatal care, Roberts said.

"Our community-awareness campaign will inform women who use alcohol and drugs on where they can get help and what steps they can take to improve their health, the health of their babies, and increase their chances of taking their babies home at the time of delivery," Roberts said. "We want mothers to know that help is available and that they are not alone."

More information about Bridges to Care is available on CCHS' website:

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Press Contact
  • Sarah Roberts
  • 925-313-6274