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Fresh Start program helps moms battling drug addiction

Posted at 7:19 PM, Sep 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 21:40:29-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are 142 women struggling with addiction that are waiting for a bed to open at Fresh Start Recovery Center in downtown Indianapolis. These women are also all mothers, or soon-to-be moms.

According to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, from 2015 to 2016, there was a 22 percent increase in women battling addiction that led to more than 6,000 children being removed from their homes in Indiana due to parental substance abuse.

"I started smoking crack when I was 12 years old, and I pretty much smoked all my life," says Tiki Skinner, a mom who has battled drug addiction throughout her life. "I lived a life of running the streets, and doing the streets."

Skinner is working to turn her life around. After voluntarily giving up her children for adoption, and getting them taken away from her by the Department of Child Services, Skinner said she is ready to finally be the mother she needs to be.

"I am left with guilt every day because I don't have known of my children, they are some I will never know and it hurts," explains Skinner through tears. "It is hard to wake up and live your life, and go through life and not know where your children are, or what they are doing, or what sports they are in and I just know that I want to raise a child."

The Indianapolis mom is now getting a chance to do just that, with her 6-month-old daughter, Isabella. They were both were welcomed at Fresh Start Recovery Center.

"When I had her, I planned her," states Skinner. "I planned to have and I planned to raise her."

Isabella was taken away from her mother by DCS. 

Fresh Start Recovery Center, which opened in 2015 with Volunteers of America, gives many drug-addicted mothers, like Skinner, the opportunity to face their addiction and learn to be a parent. Fresh Start Recovery is funded by DCS and is a free program.

"We started the program in 2015 and we started it is a result of the Department of Child Services cases were getting clogged up with women who were using opioids," explains Executive VP of Volunteers of America, Shannon Schumacher.  "NICUs that are getting filled up with babies who are testing positive at birth for opioids."

Fresh Start Recovery Center has 15 beds, which are consistently filled with women who learn to live clean lives.

"Fresh Start is a unique program in the state, and the country actually because not only do we do intensive addiction treatment, but we also do intensive parenting support and parenting training at the same time," explains Schumacher.

According to the Volunteers of America website, Fresh Start Recovery Center "focuses on helping mothers involved in the Department of Child Services (DCS) recover from opioid, heroin, and other drug addictions and have healthy children. It also allows mothers and children to remain together while mother receives residential treatment for drug abuse. Mothers who are working toward regaining care of their children also participate in this program. All clients must have a referral from the Department of Child Services."

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation recently gave a large amount of funding toward and in support of an expansion of Fresh Start.

"What better way to help Hoosiers address this opioid addiction challenge than help mothers and the children that are born to them get the services that they need so that they can be successful in the longer term," says Claire Fiddian-Green, the President and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

Fiddian-Green says in 2016, almost 1,300 Hoosiers died from a drug overdose and 678 babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which means their mother was addicted to an opioid when the baby was born.

"Now of course there is a human suffering that is associated with that," explains Fiddian-Green. "It is also very costly for the state, that cost just a little over $50 million just to treat those 678 babies."

The expansion of the center will allow Fresh Start to have 60 beds in their facility by the end of 2017, and they plan on being able to serve 400 local women per year.

"I see an awesome being," says Skimmer. "I am grateful that she is just, she takes my breath away."

She said she wants to change, and is ready to take on the world with her daughter by her side.

"I am a mother, I have seven children," says Skinner. "And this is the only one where I get a chance, and I am growing up and I know it's time to do different, see different, see what the other side has to offer me."

Along with the current expansion to the downtown Indianapolis location that should be completed by the end of 2017, Fresh Start is planning on expanding throughout Central Indiana to battle the opioid epidemic in the state. Schumacher says they are planning on opening a regional model in Columbus, and another in Winchester, which would have 23 beds.

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If you know someone, or are someone in need of help, you can find information on the program and how to apply here.

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