Drug program succeeds beyond 'wildest dreams'


POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2009

A program providing health care and drug treatment for pregnant women addicted to crystal methamphetamine is succeeding “;beyond our wildest dreams,”; says Dr. Tricia Wright.





        » It is operating on a 2007 state appropriation released in January and is seeking two federal grants to support its services.

» In July it will receive $100,000 under a Health Department contract for perinatal support and screening.


» It recently received $25,000 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to build a healing garden with Hawaiian herbs, a play area and meeting space.


» The March of Dimes also provided $10,000 for a motivational incentive program.




Perinatal Addiction Treatment of Hawaii, observing its second anniversary, has had 52 births, including two sets of twins, said Wright, founder and medical director of the program.

The clinic's pre-term birth rate is 7.7 percent—well below state and national averages of 12 percent, she said.

Advocates say the government-funded program is money well spent.

“;Given that each pre-term birth costs taxpayers in excess of $56,000, we as taxpayers are getting our money's worth,”; said Wright.

An assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, Wright developed the clinic as a pilot program on the grounds of the Salvation Army Family Treatment Center in Kaimuki.

The unique program combines prenatal care with substance abuse treatment and counseling and offers parenting workshops, hands-on care with children and classes on healthy habits, nutrition and sewing.

She said 75 percent of the women show up after making the first phone call, and 90 percent stay with the program. “;Some women who delivered 20 months ago still call us and keep in touch.”;

Results are “;unbelievable,”; said Executive Director Renee Schuetter, explaining that 81 percent are drug-free within three months. She said 97 percent have maintained custody of their children eight weeks after birth, and 94 percent have retained custody after six months.

“;The secret seems to be that the staff is small and very consistent, open and not judging of them at all, and we allow them to set their goals,”; said Schuetter, a registered nurse.

The women care about their pregnancy and health of their babies, she said. “;That's a place we can work from.”;