DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
A new University of Hawaii medical school clinic helps treat substance-abusing pregnant women. Dr. Tricia Wright, UH assistant professor of obstetrics-gynecology and clinic director, measures the size of Tupu's uterus. CLICK FOR LARGE
UH clinic serves pregnant abusers
The pilot program will offer prenatal classes, counseling in nutrition and group therapy
The expectant 34-year-old mother of five is sold on the new University of Hawaii medical school clinic for substance-abusing pregnant women.
"Everybody feels comfortable," Tupu said during an examination by Dr. Tricia Wright. "They help you learn about yourself. They love you."
Tupu, who asked to keep her last name confidential, is one of the first patients at the pilot clinic on the grounds of the Salvation Army Family Treatment Center in Kaimuki.
Her baby is due in July, she said. Her other children, ages 17, 12, 10, 6 and 5, three boys and two girls, are being taken care of by other family members.
Tupu said she has been at Women's Way, a residential treatment center for women and their children, for about a month.
The clinic began taking patients last week from Women's Way and will open to the community Monday. An open house will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.
The Legislature appropriated $400,000 to the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine to establish the facility as a pilot program and $400,000 has been requested for the next two years.
Wright, UH assistant professor of obstetrics-gynecology who directs the clinic, was ready to open it last September but UH didn't release the money until January.
"We have been working steadily," she said. Salvation Army did the interior work and the staff did the decorating and furnishing, she said.
The staff includes Renee Schuetter, registered nurse and clinic manager; Julia Yoshimoto, social worker; and Bernadette Scanlan-Hodges, medical assistant.
The clinic is open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Friday afternoons. Perinatal classes are held over lunch, where nutritional advice is also dispensed.
The clinic has two exam rooms and a child care room. Besides prenatal classes, the staff is providing group therapy and case management, Wright said. They plan to start counseling and group sessions, she said, noting Schuetter has a counseling degree and Yoshimoto has a masters in social work.
Tupu said Wright "is a great doctor" and "the staff is really nice." It would have helped to have such a program when she was pregnant with her other five children, she said.
About 6 to 12 percent of Isle women use crystal methamphetamine or "ice" during their pregnancy and about 12,000 babies are delivered here annually, Wright said.
The Milagro clinic in Albuquerque, N.M., where Wright trained, is a model for the UH clinic. Her plan is to develop the pilot clinic as a model that can be duplicated at community health centers.
There is no other program in Hawaii coordinating prenatal health care with substance abuse treatment and other services, she has pointed out.
"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 advocates said in the draft proposal.
Tupu said she tried other substance abuse programs but "just wasn't ready. I thought it was time to grow up already. Over here is good program."