VONORE, Tenn. — In Tennessee, around 1% of births involve children born with "Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome." The name described conditions that an infant may be born with as it experiences withdrawal from drugs it could have been exposed to in the womb.
NAS is often caused when a woman takes a large number of opioids during pregnancy. A program in Monroe County is trying to help pregnant women recover from addiction so their children have more of a chance of being born healthy.
It's called True Purpose Ministries. They work with women who are pregnant in jail, women on probation and unsheltered women to help them overcome substance abuse.
"A lot of these mothers — they were born into addicted families. They were raised in addition, they were raised in poverty, and that lifestyle is all they've ever known," said Page Holtzclaw, who works with the program.
Holtzclaw knows what struggling with addiction is like. She was a part of a similar program about five years ago. Since going through it, she's been sober. Now, she's helping other women do the same.
The True Purpose program has operated for around four years. During that time, they said there were 26 newborns who entered the world without drug dependencies or withdrawal symptoms.
Some moms in the program said it's been helpful for them to get back on their feet.
"They make sure you get to every appointment, they make sure you're fed until you get the finances to start feeding yourself, and stuff like that," said Treannie Harris.
She had a baby boy born on August 8, 2022.
"I had an addiction problem and didn't really care if I was here or not, and they just gave me a reason to live," said Taylor Bruner, whose baby boy was born in early August without signs of NAS. "It gives me a whole new perspective on life, and gives me something to look forward to."
The program lasts a year and brings expecting mothers together in a home near Vonore. As of Wednesday, 14 women were living in the facility with their children. True Purpose Ministries also has programs for men and women who aren't expecting children.
"I've been through a lot in my life, and he [this baby] saved me," said Taylor.
Holtzclaw wants these women to feel empowered.
"You can do it. You can hold down a job. You can have your own apartment, you can have car insurance, you can have a driver's license, you can keep your kids, you can get your kids back, you can be someone that you never thought that you could be," she said.