Pilot prenatal health clinic targets ‘ice’ users
The facility is awaiting state funding and will offer substance abuse treatment to isle women
A pilot health clinic is planned in Kaimuki to provide prenatal care, substance abuse treatment and other services to pregnant Hawaii women who use crystal methamphetamine.
An estimated 5 percent to 6 percent of all pregnancies here -- about 1,200 a year -- involve women who use "ice," said Dr. Tricia Wright, a UH assistant professor of obstetrics-gynecology and pilot clinic director.
Only about 100 treatment slots are available on Oahu for pregnant women who abuse drugs, Wright said.
Establishment of the clinic in Kaimuki is pending Gov. Linda Lingle's release of $400,000 appropriated by the Legislature to the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine for the program.
"The problem is there is no coordinated place where they can get prenatal care along with substance abuse treatment," Wright said.
As a result, pregnant women using ice or other illegal drugs are referred to doctors "who have no knowledge or desire" to treat substance abuse, she said. If they are referred to a substance abuse facility, they might not get the prenatal care they need, she said.
Nancy Partika, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii executive director, who helped lobby for funding for the clinic, said it is "much needed in order to provide supportive and responsive health care and related services to substance-abusing women and their infants."
Wright said the clinic will partner with Women's Way, a Salvation Army residential drug-treatment facility in Kaimuki.
At the start, the clinic would take about 100 women per year, she said. "We're hoping with the pilot clinic to get a model that can be replicated through the community health centers."
Wright, who joined UH two years ago after six years in private practice, said the concept for the Hawaii clinic is based on the Milagro clinic in Albuquerque, N.M.
She said she trained in New Mexico, "and when I got there, I said, 'Why don't we have something like this?'"
The Milagro clinic was established in 1989 by University of New Mexico faculty because of a growing heroin epidemic there. It is primarily a prenatal clinic that provides pediatric care and substance abuse treatment.
The local clinic will provide prenatal care, substance abuse counseling, psychiatric treatment, child care and social services, according to a draft proposal. It would also provide access to legal help for women and their families.
"By combining the services, we hope to keep the women in the health-care system longer than the five to seven months the typical pregnant woman spends in prenatal care," the statement said.
The legislation for clinic funding said Child Welfare Services reported two years ago that methamphetamine use was involved in more than 80 percent of its active cases in Hawaii. Yet, it said, little is known about adverse effects during pregnancy.
Dr. Chris Derauf, University of Hawaii associate professor of pediatrics, is working with other groups on a long-term study of the effects of ice exposure and other drugs on children. He will provide care for children in the clinic, Wright said.
"There is reason to be concerned," Derauf said at a recent maternal and infant care conference sponsored by the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition and the medical school's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health.
Early findings show a sharp increase in low-birth-weight babies born to women who used methamphetamine, which can cause developmental problems, he said.
New research is looking at the effects of methamphetamine on a child's brain as it relates to development and behaviors, he said.
Wright also is interested in looking at the long-term effects on women using methamphetamine. For example, she said, "We're seeing cardiac problems."
She hopes to have five to seven people working at the clinic, including registered nurses, doctors, substance abuse counselors and social workers.