Tenn. pregnant women addicted to drugs may not face criminal cha

Tenn. pregnant women addicted to drugs may not face criminal charges if they get treatment

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According to the new state law starting July 1, a woman can face criminal charges if she uses drugs while pregnant and the baby is born addicted, harmed or dies due to the drug use. According to the new state law starting July 1, a woman can face criminal charges if she uses drugs while pregnant and the baby is born addicted, harmed or dies due to the drug use.
Evangeline "Red" Smith was addicted to drugs for 20 years. She says remained drug free during her pregnancy though. She supports the new law. Evangeline "Red" Smith was addicted to drugs for 20 years. She says remained drug free during her pregnancy though. She supports the new law.
By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Pregnant women who use illicit drugs and harm their infants due to that drug use may now face criminal charges. Governor Bill Haslam signed that bill into law Tuesday.

Previous story: Gov. Haslam signs bill to prosecute mothers who use illicit drugs while pregnant

Evangeline "Red" Smith was addicted to drugs for 20 years. She says remained drug free during her pregnancy though.

“It was the fact that I was pregnant. I didn't want to harm the baby once I found out that I was pregnant. I didn't want to harm the baby,” said Smith.

According to the new state law starting July 1, a woman can face criminal charges if she uses drugs while pregnant and the baby is born addicted, harmed or dies due to the drug use.

The legislation allows mothers to avoid criminal charges if they get treatment before the child is born, remain in the program after delivery and successfully complete the program.

Smith supports the new law.

“If they don't chose treatment and they are physically harming that child and don't choose treatment I believe they should suffer consequences,” said Smith.

Peninsula Outpatient Centers offer services in Knox and surrounding counties for pregnant women suffering from drug addiction. Mary Nelle Osborne with the Peninsula Outpatient Center says the centers offer medical management, therapy and outpatient groups.

If a woman is pregnant, she will have insurance through Tenncare, which will cover the treatment costs.

She says grants are available for more intensive needs where women can get additional therapy and care five days a week. She support laws to protect babies but says more needs to be done.

“The doctor gets to say to her “you are pregnant and you are using substances you have to get sober or you are going to go to jail” that is the teeth of the legislation but the other things around it addiction and treating addiction we also need to look at,” said Osborne.

Smith knows how hard overcoming addiction can be but she encourages pregnant women to get treatment to save the baby.

“The methamphetamines and how controlling of your mind that they make you feel I know how hard it is for you to go through treatment but I don't feel that they should harm the baby,” said Osborne.

Osborne is concerned the law may cause women to avoid going to the hospital to have the child or terminate the pregnancy if she cannot get sober.

To get treatment contact Peninsula Outpatient Centers at 865-970-9800.

The Helen Ross McNabb Center also provides care for individuals living with addiction.

In all of the programs, admission priority is given to pregnant women. The Helen Ross McNabb Center provides medical detoxification treatment to women who are pregnant.

To get treatment call The Helen Ross McNabb Center at 865-637-9711 or 1-800-255-9711.

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