Inheriting Hope

 Christopher Croom, MD, was all too familiar with the ravages of drug addiction on mothers and their unborn children. As an obstetrician-gynecologist, he served as the medical director of Miami Valley Hospital’s Born Free program to combat crack addiction in the 1980s and 1990s. The program ended in 2002 as the crack epidemic faded. Little did Dr. Croom know that an even larger public health crisis would follow in the form of opiate addiction.

“In 25 years of caring for high-risk pregnancies, I had taken care of maybe six or seven moms addicted to heroin,” said Dr. Croom. “Suddenly, we were seeing around one or two a month.”

A vision was born to create a new initiative comprised of three treatment components: obstetrical care, medically assisted addiction treatment, and behavioral health care.

The Promise to Hope program began in May 2015 after Dr. Croom and others sought and received support from the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation. Neonatologist Marc Belcastro, DO, was among the clinicians who helped Promise to Hope get its start.

“Our goal is to focus on caring for expectant moms and meeting the problem at its source,” said Dr. Belcastro. “This begins by getting them into proper care, keeping their babies from being sick, and enhancing the possibility for them to breastfeed, take their babies home and break the cycle of addiction.”

Expectant moms are referred to Promise to Hope in a number of ways, but primarily as patients of Miami Valley Hospital.

They receive supervised care in an outpatient or inpatient residential setting after an initial meeting and evaluation with the program’s nurse and social worker. Patient progress is closely monitored, and the women have the opportunity to participate in weekly childbirth classes. There, they can consult directly with any of the program’s physicians, and also receive care for a year after their child is born.

Though challenging, the program has grown to have a positive impact on the lives of mothers and their babies.

“Few things are more satisfying than seeing moms go through the program and come back with babies that are healthy,” said Melissa Fugate, a case manager with Samaritan Behavioral Health.

“They are healthy! They are starting jobs, getting educated, leaving abusive relationships. The light’s back in their eyes.”

Success is an ongoing process and begins with a philosophy that focuses on the whole person instead of a series of symptoms.

“Dr. Croom stresses that addiction is a disease, and should be treated that way,” said Trish McVey, RN, a Promise to Hope case manager.

“We tell patients this is a safe place. We aren’t here to judge them. We are here to help them recover. Here, they matter; they have value; they have hope.”