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Casa Mia creating a clean start for mothers and babies

UT Health San Antonio created a program to help mothers and newborns addicted to drugs heal together.

SAN ANTONIO — From the moment they're born, thousands of babies in Bexar County face an uphill battle known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.  

It's what happens when the mother uses drugs during pregnancy. 

Nurses at UT Health San Antonio and community partner Crosspoint are trying to help mothers and babies recover together in a place they call, Casa Mia 

For five-month-old Eliana, Casa Mia is the only home she's ever known and for her mother, 31-year-old Diana Garcia, Casa Mia is a new chance at motherhood. 

"When I found out I was pregnant with Eliana I was living with her dad and I was using, and so my next thought was to get on the methadone," Diana Garcia said. "Things didn't work out and I was just on the streets pregnant with Eliana."

Weeks before giving birth, she found the program through a methadone clinic. 

Meeting Dr. Lisa Cleveland with UT Health Science Center who heads up the rehabilitation program. 

"What I discovered was that 70% of women with substance abuse  disorders had young dependent children, but only 3% of recovery housing offers beds for young children, so that's a huge barrier for women who want to seek treatment," said Lisa Cleveland Ph. D., RN, FAAN, from the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing. 

Dr. Cleveland says hundreds of babies like Eliana are born suffering from symptoms of withdrawal. 

"It's what changed me. I was done. Just knowing I put her through that," Garcia said.  "She went through regular withdrawals like anyone else. She was shaking she was left with a twitch for about three months."

"But what I really saw was the impact it was having on the mothers," Dr. Cleveland said. "It's absolutely critical for those early first few days after birth to have that together time for mom and baby. It really helps to secure attachment and what  know that that secure attachment can affect generations to come."

So under the watchful eye of CPS and Dr. Cleveland and her staff, Eliana stayed in the hospital while being weaned off the methadone. 

"It was a month to the day exactly to detox. A month on her one month birthday she came home," Garcia said. 

For Garcia, Casa Mia allowed her to remain focused on her child. 

"I think it keeps you more focused, because if your kid is not around your mind wanders and you drift," Garcia said. "Especially like an addict, but with your child here 24/7 I don't have time to think about anything else."

For Dr. Cleveland, it's a success to not see these children separated at birth from their mothers. 

"She never went into foster care. She was cared for by Diana from the very beginning. Really she is a great success," Dr. Cleveland said. 

The two both clean and living in the house.

Credit: KENS 5

Starting their own routine of daycare and a day job for mom.  

A requirement of the program. 

And finding other women in the home to lean on during their recovery. 

"What we have a lot of women are fighting for, what a lot of women want, Garcia said. "Its just you have to want it. You have to really want it."

Garcia left with one hope for her five month old. 

"Just to grow up happy. To have her family. To be a happy baby," Garcia said.