HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — “I’ve been coming in and out of this jail since I was 18 years old. This is my first time being pregnant and being pregnant in jail,” said Henrico County inmate Misty Lail.
Lail says she’s been an addict for years but never thought about treatment until she became pregnant.
“Either I got to put an end to this or it’s going to put an end to me. Not just me but my child as well. So it kind of gives you no choice,” said Lail.
She’s one of a number of inmates going through a program to help pregnant women with addiction in Henrico County’s jail. The jail teamed up with VCU Medical Center’s MOTIVATE clinic, specializing in addiction treatment.
“Without this program, I’d be more worried for the safety and birth of my child,” said Lail.
Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade spoke about the lack of general knowledge about the needs of pregnant inmates.
“People don’t realize that when you talk in public that we have pregnant women in the jail,” said Wade.
Sheriff Wade says he’s seen an increase in pregnant inmates coming to jail with an addiction.
“We usually maintain between 10 and 15 pregnant women in jail any day of the year,” said Wade. “I often wonder myself what would happen to some of them if they weren’t in jail.”
Dr. Mishka Terplan, the associate director of addiction medicine at VCU Medical Center addressed the issue.
“The past year we’ve had a clinic in the jail, in the Henrico County jail, where we’ve seen pregnant women, perhaps half, I don’t know three-quarters of whom are pregnant and have an addiction to opioids,” Dr. Terplan said.
Dr. Terplan says if the inmates were not going through the program, there could be serious consequences for their unborn child.
“Pre term birth, low birth weight delivery, they get HIV and Hep C which they can then transmit to their infants,” said Terplan.
Terplan says while the jail has seen an increase of pregnant inmates with addiction, their program has worked to give addicts outcomes as good as the general population when it comes to giving birth.
“Overwhelmingly it’s been incredibly positive,” said Terplan.
“This is literally the first treatment I’ve had in my life at 27-years-old, in Henrico County Jail,” said inmate Erica McKenzie.
McKenzie calls the program a life saver and is thankful to share the journey with others struggling with addiction.
“To know that I’m not alone, the biggest thing is to know it’s not just me,” said McKenzie.
She says she feels confident she can be the mother she wants to be after getting out.
“And be with my child and not have to wonder, what am I going to do today how am I going to stay well,” said McKenzie.
Dr. Terplan says while Henrico’s jail has a program to help pregnant women with addiction, many across the country do not. He says he’s pushing for more jails to implement programs similar to Henrico.
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