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CAPRI program seeks to prevent infant addictions

Jill Darby, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Babies are born every day addicted to drugs and alcohol; South Lake Tahoe agencies are devising a plan to decrease such occurrences.

The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, Tahoe Youth and Family Services and the South Tahoe branch of the El Dorado County Public Health Department joined forces with their Placerville counterparts to form the Coalition of Concerned Advocates for Peri-natal Related Issues.

CAPRI, funded through Proposition 10 grant monies, is aimed at connecting substance abusing pregnant women with agencies that can help them get clean and stay clean for the sake of their children. The group also focuses on providing information about substance abuse, birth defects and the psychological impact that parental drug and alcohol abuse can have on children.

The organization’s mission statement reads as follows:

“CAPRI is a coalition committed to the coordination of a seamless service delivery that addresses the medical, social and emotional needs of substance using pregnant and parenting women and their families.”

The CAPRI task force, which includes El Dorado County Superior Court Commissioner Bill Bradley, is not sure how to go about reducing substance abuse during pregnancy, but hopes to have a structured plan of attack by January.

“We’d like to look at a strategic plan to get the information out to moms,” said Lois Denowitz, community educator at the Women’s Center. “CAPRI is for substance abusing moms no matter what age and the problem spans all socioeconomic levels.”

In a 1992 study, Nevada, Placer, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties — known as the Golden Empire — tested highest in the state of California for evidence of drugs and alcohol in infants’ urine.

Many such infants grow up to be substance abusing teen-agers. That’s when Tahoe Youth and Family Services becomes involved.

“I’m involved with CAPRI for two reasons,” TYFS Executive Director Nicole Loftis said. “One, we do the young parents program at (South Tahoe) High School. Two, a lot of the patients we see were drug and alcohol babies. A lot of their problems as adolescents come from the fact their mothers were using drugs or alcohol when they were pregnant.”

The coalition is hoping to gain community interest and get private physicians involved with the organization and its mission.

“I’m really making a plea to other agencies and private practices to at least come to a meeting, ” Denowitz said. “We really need the people in the community who are working with substance abusing moms. We really need the decision makers and their input.”

Public Health Nurse Valerie Finnigan said receiving information early on about substance abuse during pregnancy is key for expectant mothers.

“Private sector medical (personnel) are pretty much the most important,” Finnigan said. “If a doctor addressed (the issue of substance abuse) at a prenatal meeting, I think a lot of women would trust the information since they got it from their doctor.

“Most women I work with are highly motivated during their pregnancy to stay clean. It’s after the baby is born I worry about.”

Breakout: For information on CAPRI meeting dates, call Lois Denowitz at (530) 542-7622, or Nicole Loftis at (530) 541-2445.


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