The For Baby and Me program, featured in this YouTube video, will share in a new $1.2 million state grant. YouTube Screenshot
The For Baby and Me program, featured in this YouTube video, will share in a new $1.2 million state grant. YouTube Screenshot

The message from Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton to the population they serve is clear: CCDOT will not leave them helpless.

CCDOT, along with five nonprofit partners, will share in a $1.2 million state grant intended to fund the For My Baby and Me program. The program treats pregnant women and new mothers struggling with addiction whom are homeless or at risk of homelessness, along with their babies, in the greater Trenton area.

For My Baby and Me, launched in December 2017, is funded by a grant from the N.J. Department of Health. Services provided include safe housing, food and clothing, educational and employment support and other services. For example, medication-assisted addiction treatment, or MAT, increases the odds that the pregnant women will carry their babies to term and that the infants avoid neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when a baby is exposed to drugs in utero.

Results have been positive thus far, said Dana DeFilippo, CCDOT communications officer. As of earlier this summer, more than 60 women have been aided by the program. Some 14 babies have been born with positive outcomes; most have gone home to their mothers rather than to the neonatal intensive unit or foster care.

“This population has multiple problems: homelessness, addictions, pregnancy. This program addresses them all, wraps its arms around it all,” DeFilippo said.

In addition to Catholic Charities, the other For My Baby and Me program partners are Capital Health System, HomeFront, the Henry J. Austin Health Center, the Rescue Mission of Trenton and the Trenton Health Team.

When asked why the six entities had joined ranks to operate the program, DeFilippo quoted an adage: “A rising tide lifts all boats,” she said. “Funding and dollars have shrunk, but the needs grow. We have to meet the needs of the community.”

The recent grant renewal by the state came at an opportune time, DiFilippo noted.

“The initial grant ran out at the end of 2018,” she explained, “but the partners continued the program on their own dime. That’s how much faith everyone had in it. Discontinuing it would have hurt this vulnerable population.”

This spring, the state bridged the gap to reimburse their costs; this newest grant will be divided amongst the six partners. Catholic Charities anticipates receiving about $250,000 to $300,000 of the total.

A video posted on YouTube about the program includes interviews with five young women, once in the throes of addiction, and administrators from Catholic Charities, along with fellow For My Baby and Me partners from Capital Health and Rescue Mission, all of them proclaiming joyful success of the program.

“[For My Baby and Me] is a foundation for other programs in the community,” Susan Loughery, director of operations for Catholic Charities, said in the video. “It can be a health care model.”

CCDOT’s director of nursing, Lisa Merritt, added, “You can feel the warmth. Those who stay engaged in treatment see amazing outcomes.”

“Women who are pregnant need one easy step to receive a cascade of services to get help,” said Dr. Eric Schwartz of Capital Health. “Identify, connect and treat is our motto.”

The video notes that few programs in New Jersey exist to treat pregnant women due to their complex needs and high risk.

“This forces them to choose between seeking health care, facing arrest, or losing their child,” the viewer learns in the video. “They shouldn’t have to choose.”

More information about the For My Baby and Me program may be found at  www.formybabyandme.org; for assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 609-256-7801.To view the YouTube video on For Baby and Me, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5lLEe5qTdA