Middle Tennessee lawmakers Terri Lynn Weaver and Janice Bowling are sponsors of a bill that, if passed, would allow mothers to be prosecuted for assault if their babies are born drug-exposed. Part of the bill includes passing a drug court program.
Years ago this was a state law which expired in 2016 because of a sunset clause. On Tuesday we spoke with Metro Drug Coalition about this bill being brought back.
“So we’re seeing a decrease in these births of babies being born drug-exposed which is very encouraging. That means we have moms that are entering prenatal care at an earlier time for both mother and baby. Addiction is a disease which is a chronic, relapsing disease, so if we’re putting another barrier in front of these moms, it can be another trigger for them to go into relapse or something of that nature. We really need to make sure that we’re lifting them up,” said Deborah Crouse with Metro Drug Coalition.
Crouse says in the past they found many mothers with substance abuse disorders were delivering out of state or at home to avoid charges.
Beauty for Ashes Freedom House in Lenoir City focuses on caring for women and new moms with substance abuse disorders.
“I was so lost but coming here was one of the best things that happened to me,” said Kristin Hewitt who is pregnant and due this summer.
There are 17 women who call this faith-based recovery center home. It opened last fall.
“It was hard but knowing I was pregnant, I knew I needed to get off the streets,” added Hewitt.
“This place saved my life. I was going to die if I didn’t get help,” said new mom Ashley Claxton.
Two years ago a mother and daughter team, Teresa and Tessa King, started their recovery program just as a grassroots outreach.
“It’s not just my famliy. It’s everybody, it’s everywhere,” said Teresa King.
Today they focus on helping women in Loudon County with counseling, education, coping skills and more while they live at Beauty for Ashes. At the heart of the treatment is God.
“We want them to feel a sense of home and family, and love and peace,” added Tessa King.
The Kings say there’s good work happening in Nashville tackling the opioid epidemic.
“The community’s got to come together on this. No big I’s and little me’s, this has got to be a project from one community to another and resources need to stick together.”
It’s a reminder of who this new proposed legislation can impact also lives at the home. Claxton giave birth to happy and healthy Myah Grace two weeks ago.
“Thank the Lord that I got off drugs when I did because she wouldn’t be here,” she said.
Many women who live at Beauty for Ashes saying they’re thankful for this journey and hope stigmas, as well as possible legislation, change.
“God really works. He can restore people. He truly can,” said Claxton.
“When I walked in these doors I didn’t feel like I was worth anything. I didn’t feel like my kids deserved me and now I feel like I’m worth something,” added Hewitt.
If you’d like to learn more about Beauty for Ashes Freedom House, you can visit their Facebook page by clicking here.
Help is also out there if you’re struggling with an addiction. You can receive free, confidential information by calling Tennessee’s Redline at 1-800-899-9789. You can also reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by calling 1-800-662-HELP
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