WINCHESTER, INDIANA — Winchester, Indiana Mayor Shon Byrum said when he ran for mayor in 2015, one of his campaign platforms was finding help for the most vulnerable.
His chance to show that support came when Volunteers of America Indiana (VOAIN) Executive Vice-President of Strategic and Clinical Services Shannon Schumacher reached out to Mayor Byrum. The VOAIN requested aid in the creation of a facility that will house pregnant mothers that are drug addicted, with up to two children. Mayor Byrum and the city answered Schumacher’s request with support in establishing the “Winchester House.” The house is modeled after the Fresh Start Recovery Program, in Indianapolis, that started in August, 2015, also operated by the VOAIN. According to Schumacher, five or six moms have successfully completed the program, others have relapsed or left and returned to the facility and about 123 women are on a waiting list.
“A big chunk of those are coming from this region,” Schumacher said. “It has been really hit hard with the opiate epidemic.”
Volunteers of America is nationally known for its work with re-entering mothers from prison and with them are usually addiction issues, Schumacher said. VOAIN went to the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) to inquire about how the VOAIN could use what they were doing with re-entering moms, with moms that have open DCS cases.
“They said. ‘Build us residential addiction treatment programs where moms can have their babies with them’,” Schumacher said. “That is what we did in Indianapolis with our first unit, and are getting ready to add two more units there. We are also looking at building in southern Indiana and the Winchester area.”
According to Byrum, the Indiana Housing and Community – Development Authority (IHCDA) is loaning the city $815,000 for construction, acquisition and renovation of the education building, 313 S. Meridian Street, of the Winchester Campus of the Compass Church. In turn, the building is leased from the city to VOAIN to operate the house. It will become a 23-room drug treatment facility for pregnant addicted mothers who have open DCS cases, sometime in September. According to Schumacher, the CDA will annually return the interest on the loan to the VOAIN for its use in long-term evaluation of the program. The operational funding source comes from the DCS, and VOAIN will receive a per diem for the program.
“We are targeting pregnant women, unable to get off of opiates, to have a place to come when they are pregnant,” Shumacker said. “When a mom gives birth to a baby and the baby tests positive for drugs in the hospital, that baby doesn’t go home with the mom. Our Foster Care system is getting inundated. This is an addictions programs for moms who can have their babies with them. That’s why the DCS will pay for moms to come. After they have their babies, they will come here with no need for Foster Care placement. Mom can still bond with the baby and receive very intensive residential services.”
According to Shumacker, the facility is a phase program. The first three weeks is very intense and the mothers do not leave. After that, there is a step down. Shumacker said the 24/7 in-house staff will consist of about 23 people, including licensed addiction counselors. The moms will have at least four hours of treatment a day and life-skills training, in areas such as: relationships, recognizing domestic violence and parenting. The patients are on Vivitrol and and other evidence-based medications to help them in their recovery, Shumacker said.
“‘We have this group of women who, from addiction, their brains are changed forever,” she said. “We have to figure out how to help them all the way through.”
“We hear stories of people being put in luxury rehabs,” Byrum said. “Those who have the means to get better, will get better. We are focusing on the most vulnerable – the 20- year – old moms with children and fighting addiction. When children are hungry, tired and without support at home, that has long – term effects on our society. The drug epidemic is more than just about an individual, it is about the community. This program is a tax net gain. This is an opportunity to do more than just help the mom get better, it is an opportunity to invest in our futures.”
As part of community outreach and collaboration, VOAIN will have an advisory committee to meet monthly, including receiving advice from neighbors and community members. Shumacker said the “Winchester House” is in a small community and that community involvement is very important. Many community members have offered to volunteer.
“I think we found a solution and a cure to this epidemic,” Byrum said. “It’s me and you and it starts with hope and the love of our neighbor.”
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