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Local nonprofit working to help babies, parents in opioid withdrawals

Opioid Crisis-CVS
Posted at 5:26 PM, Jan 31, 2023

PHOENIX — It’s an addiction so deadly, one pill can kill. Fentanyl exposure is on the rise in Arizona and the Banner Poison Control Center is seeing an increase.

According to officials at the center, in 2022, they received 108 reports of fentanyl exposure in children under the age of 17. In 2017, that total number was six.

“It's quite prevalent and it's very easy for people to obtain now in the state. So, we're just seeing some tragic stories with unintentional overdosing and fatalities with fentanyl,” said Maureen Roland, a registered nurse and managing director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

On Sunday, a three-year-old boy died from fentanyl exposure, according to the Apache Junction Police Department.

Police are investigating how the boy came into contact with the drug as he was traveling from Apache Junction to Mesa. The boy was taken to a hospital on Thursday, fell ill, and was given Narcan. He died on Sunday.

Police said they have not arrested anyone in the case, and that they are working with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office.

“My heart goes out to everyone that loved that baby. But there is help. But, it has to be barrier-free without stigma, because think of what this family is going through,” said Tara Sundem, the executive director of Hushabye Nursery.

While circumstances around the Apache Junction tragedy remain unclear, Sundem said she feels for the family and what they’re going through.

Sundem knows the addiction struggle well, as her nonprofit Hushabye Nursery, helps parents and babies break the cycle of addiction. She tells ABC15 she started the nonprofit after working as a neonatal nurse practitioner at hospitals. She saw an increase in babies coming into the NICU going through withdrawal.

“It isn’t that simple. I didn’t get it. Five years ago, six years ago, I was like, how did you do this to your baby? If you loved your baby, why wouldn’t you stop? And now, I understand opiate use disorder,” Sundem explained.

Since they opened, Sundem said they helped about 600 families through inpatient and outpatient care. They care for babies 24/7 through soothing techniques and try not to do nonpharmacological treatments, though they do have medicine for the babies that may need it.

Parents working through drug abuse also have the option of staying at the nursery with their babies and receiving help simultaneously to break through the addiction cycle.

“Us as a community, as a whole, don’t get that. And until we do, we’re not going to be able to make a big huge change because of that stigma and people that are ashamed to say that they need help,” Sundem said.

There are many resources including Hushabye Nursery.

ABC15 extensively covered Arizona’s fentanyl crisis.

You can find a list of resources and other coverage here.