Monday, April 27, 2020

By Tia Washum

Tia Washum is a Grassroots Maternal Child Health Leader and a policy fellow at Indiana Institute for Working Families. 

Over the next six months, I will be working with the Indiana Institute for Working Families staff to help transform community needs at the intersection of maternal/ child health and economic security into actionable, evidence-based policy recommendations that are focused on the well-being of mothers and their families.

When you think about community compassion, what comes to mind? Do you think of a Kumbaya song, or wanting to help your fellow man, woman, or child, or just making a difference in someone’s life? I am passionate about service to others and how I can help to enhance their lives. But what touches and tugs my heart the most are women and children. Women are the resource of our communities and our children are the foundation of life. I’m speaking out today to bring some awareness about the current concerns in our community and people that are affected, especially mothers and children.

Let me ask you something:

    Right now in your own life, what are you doing to escape your daily stressors?
·       What were you doing at eight years old?

·       Were you being abused as a child?

·       Were your parents alcoholic or addicts?

·       Were you sexually assaulted?

·       Were you escaping trauma and abuse by shooting up heroin?

The fact is that we all face stressors and we all do something to escape. What is your coping strategy when you have been faced with one of these stressors? Do you use a substance or act out to cover up the pain on the inside? This may not be your coping mechanism, but this is a reality for some of our fellow residents. Right now, at our own public libraries there are children shooting up heroin. Can you picture that!

I do outreach in our community with Women In Motion Inc. We provide information and talk to women in our community that are trying to find a way out. Lack of support and information is very challenging for them. There are many women that want to be good mothers to their children. At the same time, they are living a journey of escape from the harsh reality that leads them to self-medicate. They do not get the quality of care needed to protect themselves and their babies. This needs to change.

Our first policy challenge is to make sure these individuals get support. They need effective aid that connects them to healthcare and treatment. This lack of care may not be killing them physically, but it is killing any possible healthy connection that can help them be part of our community. While some of us have connections that can build and educate our communities, others do not. They need support free from the social stigma of labels like ‘addict’ or ‘alcoholic.’ We need to help improve the quality of life for those seeking recovery.

Our second policy challenge is to recognize that our crisis is not all about opioids. We still have mothers and children that are addicted to other drugs – including alcohol, crack, and meth - that are in our communities. We as a community should try to meet and respond to ALL addiction challenges, not just the one that is in the public eye for a moment. Unseen addictions have a deadly grip on our community as a whole.

Our third challenge is to provide hope by making economic security and affordable housing possible. This is an important part of the solution, because deprivation is part of the harsh reality that people are escaping from. Hope means fostering self-help skills with mutual support in an environment that is non-judgmental. It means connecting individuals with the health care and social services that they have a right to and deserve.

I am speaking out to bring some awareness about addiction in our communities and the people who are affected – especially mothers and children. I plan to use my time at the Institute to develop and advocate for solutions to the challenges we are facing. These challenges are urgent because families and communities are struggling. At this moment, some mother is under the influence of some drug and she is bringing life into this world. We as a community have a moral responsibility to give hope, guidance, and non-judgmental support to that mother and her child. I look forward to playing a positive role in bringing about the needed change.

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