Alicia Nelson is a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member serving as a case manager at River Region Human Services. She shares her experience with babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and their moms.
My name is Alicia Nelson and I’m currently completing my service term with the National Health Corps Florida, an AmeriCorps program based out of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition. So far, I have served over 1,500 hours at River Region Human Services, which provides treatment for individuals and families affected by substance abuse.
Already this year, I have personally met over 50 babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, either through teaching classes at River Region’s outpatient treatment program, providing case management at our inpatient residential facility or as a volunteer Infant Cuddler at UF Health Jacksonville. I have also formed relationships with their mothers who are at various stages of recovery.
Through these relationships, I have seen how difficult it is to manage a high-risk pregnancy, even more so when these mothers encounter friends, families and even medical professionals who consider their addiction to be a moral failure. During my service term, I have been asked many times, “How do we punish the mothers of these babies for what they did?” I am less often asked, “What can we do for the babies born addicted to help them grow into healthy adults?” I am proud of my fellow National Health Corps members and our community partners who are asking and answering this second question.
I’ve seen firsthand that prioritizing the health of the baby goes hand-in-hand with treating the mother with compassion. Providing this kind of care and support goes a long way in improving the health of mothers, infants and reducing the burden of addiction in our community as a whole.