Helping mothers in recovery pays off

Much has been said about what wasn’t accomplished before the May 18 legislative session deadline, but it’s worth noting some important things were accomplished in the final flurry of the session.

Heather Carlson /
Heather Carlson /

Among the successes was a spending bill that could save the lives of Olmsted County residents while potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Funding aimed to help drug- and alcohol-addicted pregnant women and new mothers was approved as part of the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill.

The $500,000 to cover two years is expected to provide grant money to maintain Olmsted County’s program — Community of Recovery Aiding Families in Transition, or CRAFT — while also funding new programs in the state.

“Our goal would be to fund two other programs as great as theirs,” said Sara Messelt, the executive director of Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which oversees the stat e-provided grant funding.

That’s good news. The CRAFT program’s success has justifiably been held up as an example of what can be accomplished by connecting pregnant woman and young mothers with the services needed to overcome chemical dependency.

“It’s kind of twofold with the sobriety and the parenting education and support,” said CRAFT project coordinator Jessica Ondler.

With an annual budget of $180,000, the Olmsted County program has served more than 100 women since restarting in 2012 and is helping about 30 county residents. “It’s constantly fluctuating,” Ondler said.

Paul Fleissner, director of Olmsted County Community Services, said the program is working, which means it’s saving the county money. In 2014, the CRAFT program saw 15 babies delivered to mothers who had been addicted to drugs or alcohol, which often can lead to premature births. All were carried to term and born free of signs indicating fetal alcohol syndrome, which can lead to a lifetime of various taxpayer-funded services.

According to the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence, preventing one case can save $360,000 during the first 10 years of a child’s life. That’s twice the cost of one year of the CRAFT program, which helped with 15 births last year.

With an additional many more new mothers being helped in their fights with addiction and countless children being provided new opportunities to help them in their first to years, the benefits of the CRAFT program continue to add up.

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