The Show on KJZZ

Banner's New HEAL Program Helps Expectant Arizona Moms Struggling With Addiction

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Monday, May 17, 2021 - 5:46am
Updated: Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - 7:02am

Earlier this year, Banner — University Medical Center Phoenix launched a new program to help expectant mothers struggling with substance abuse disorder. It turns out this program is one of the first of its kind in the Phoenix area. 

The program is called HEAL (Halle Empowerment Affirmation and Legacy) and was named after the grant received from the Halle Foundation.

"So, HEAL was created for women who are pregnant and struggling with addiction," said Dr. Laura Stewart, HEAL's program director. "And there have not been a lot of treatment options in Arizona for women that find themselves in this very challenging place. In fact, most of the women that have found their way to heal come from a really bad experience."

Either a doctor won't treat them for their addiction because they're pregnant, said Stewart, or the OB/GYN isn't comfortable caring for the mother because of the addiction, since she is now considered a high-risk pregnancy. 

So there’s a lot judgement and shame facing these women. Ad what ends up happening is that these women won’t seek out prenatal care or treatment. 

"And then we have the most innocent victim, this baby is born passively dependent on whatever substance the mom was using. It's could be alcohol, it could be opioids," she said. 

Stewart says they’re seeing a lot of fentanyl lately.

"That's terrifying," said Stewart. "So we're really trying to create a safe environment for these women to go where they're seeking treatment. They're comfortable seeking treatment." 

And they're getting comprehensive care at HEAL. Women can get access OB care, they can start medication for their addiction, get counseling, and take wellness classes. 

So far two babies have been born. The first baby, Elizabeth Grace, and her mother are doing well. 

Science Health + Medicine