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University of Arizona initiative supports mothers, children through residential treatment

February 24, 2012
by News release
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With a major three-year SAMHSA grant, the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women is heading up an initiative to support working mothers, and their children, through a residential substance abuse program.

Help for mothers who have addictions and just miss the cut for state-funded care and treatment—because their incomes are slightly too high—can be hard to find, largely because solid structures rarely exist to aid them. But through an extensive, multi-year, multi-agency initiative, UA's Southwest Institute for Research on Women is working with several community partners to build that structure.

The UA institute, known as SIROW, is at the helm of the initiative, having received a nearly $1.6 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA. With the funding, SIROW and its collaborators are implementing "Working Poor Mothers of Minors (MOMs)," which will provide individualized residential substance abuse prevention, treatment and support for working women and their children.

"Sometimes they are just making a couple of dollars more than allowed and thus become ineligible for treatment," said Rosi Andrade, an associate research professor with SIROW and also principal investigator and project director on the grant. "But this will enable access."

During the fall, SAMHSA announced SIROW was among 20 U.S. agencies and organizations to receive a total of $29.1 million in funding over a three-year period.

"When a mother is misusing alcohol or drugs, the whole family suffers, and if the problem is not addressed in the context of the family it can plague generations to come," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in a prepared statement. "These grants will help local organizations facilitate recovery and preserve and strengthen families in their communities," Hyde also said.

MOMs collaborators are:

  • The Arizona's Children Association, or AzCA. AzCA is among Arizona's oldest and largest statewide child welfare and behavioral health nonprofit agencies. 
  • Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, or CPSA, the regional authority responsible for coordinating the delivery of mental health and substance use treatment and prevention services.
  • Compass Affordable Housing, a behavioral health nonprofit. 
  • The Haven Residential Drug Treatment, or The Haven, is a residential substance abuse treatment program.
SIROW and its partners plan to support 142 pregnant and postpartum women who are living below 200 percent of the federal poverty rate, engaging them in a structured program designed to help them off of their addictions and into stable social environments and living arrangements.
The institute is enrolling women and children and will facilitate the six-month-long program – the first two being in residence.
"Too often, what is set up is two months of treatment so that, when treatment ends, they go back to the same unhealthy situation they were in before," said Sally J. Stevens, SIROW's executive director and senior project adviser on the grant.
SIROW estimates that a total of 214 children will be served over the course of the program, with 120 of them being 3-years-old or younger. Estimates also indicate that 189 family members – spouses and partners, fathers of children and other relatives – who are not in treatment will be served.
Another important function of MOMs is to provide affordable and flexible support and treatment not just to the working women, but also to their children in the form of therapeutic services. This is a unique feature of the initiative. While some treatment programs may allow parents to bring their children to sessions, the problem is that "children suffer, but they do not receive treatment," Andrade said. "They're visible, but invisible because no treatments are directed at them."
Other elements of the program are to address issues of crime, violence and different forms of abuse, abuse while also finding safe, affordable housing for the women. Women involved must identify at least one individual to support them through the program.
"We want to help the women to move to the next level in their lives, and to engage in a lifestyle that contributes to their health and the wellbeing of their children and other family members," Andrade said. "But for us to get at the heart of the situation, we need to offer support for their children and supportive members."