Pubdate: Sun, 10 Jun 2001
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2001 The State
Author: Rick C Wade
Note: Mr. Wade is the director of the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other 
Drug Abuse Services


A Conway woman, Regina McKnight, recently was convicted of killing her 
unborn fetus by smoking crack cocaine. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court 
ruled in Ferguson vs. City of Charleston that hospitals cannot, without the 
woman's consent or a warrant, test a pregnant woman for drugs with the 
intention of giving the results to the police.

Both of these nationally publicized cases have focused a spotlight on the 
issue of substance abuse among women in South Carolina. Unfortunately, some 
of the accompanying coverage has included inaccuracies and misinformation 
about the availability of treatment for this population.

Bob Herbert of The New York Times wrote: "Humane intervention was called 
for (for Ms. McKnight), including intensive counseling, job training, and, 
especially, treatment for drug addiction. But we're talking about South 
Carolina, which trails virtually all other states in the availability of 
drug treatment but is leading the pack in the prosecution of pregnant women."

Mr. Herbert's assertion that counseling, job training and treatment are not 
available is simply not true.

Every year, South Carolina's statewide alcohol and drug abuse system 
provides direct treatment services to more than 50,000 individuals, many of 
whom are women. The sad reality is that women are closing the gender gap 
with regard to substance abuse. Studies reveal that women now drink, smoke 
and use illegal drugs at approximately the same rates as their male 
counterparts. Unfortunately, society still views female substance abusers 
differently than men, so women often hide their use and feel guilty about 
their behavior, leading to a perpetual cycle of substance abuse as a means 
of escape.

Quite often, women bear the added burden of being victims of sexual abuse 
as children and/or domestic violence as adults. These behaviors frequently 
lead to substance abuse, which often masks the deeper physical, emotional 
and psychological issues that must be addressed for women to begin to recover.

Sadly, there are women who do not seek treatment out of fear: fear of what 
others might say; fear of prosecution; fear of losing their children; fear 
of losing their jobs; and fear of losing the support of their families.

For these reasons, the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug 
Abuse Services has made a long-standing commitment to reach out to women in 
need, providing a variety of prevention, intervention and treatment 
services through a statewide network of 34 county alcohol and drug abuse 
authorities. Pregnant women receive priority admission.

Since 1993, the state system has implemented many new women-specific 
programs, including 11 women's intensive outpatient treatment programs and 
six long-term residential care facilities. Five of the six residential 
programs allow the women to bring a limited number of dependent children 
with them to treatment. Therapeutic childcare is also available in four 
locations. Through a collaborative effort with the S.C. Department of 
Social Services, needy parents receive substance abuse and other services 
to assist them in achieving economic self-sufficiency. In the near future, 
a new residential treatment program for pregnant and parenting 
substance-abusing adolescent females will open in South Carolina (--) the 
second program of its kind in the nation.

Throughout our state, women are overcoming their addictions, regaining 
their self-esteem, winning back custody of their children and improving 
their lives through vocational rehabilitation and job training programs. It 
is obvious that we must keep our children out of harm's way and ensure that 
systems are in place to prevent abuse, neglect and danger to the life of 
the child. The bottom line is one of the best protections for the child of 
a substance-abusing woman is a mother who seeks treatment. When you treat 
the mother, you create an environment that protects and nurtures the child.

Addiction is a disease, and substance abuse treatment is available and 
accessible to all women in South Carolina, particularly those who are 
pregnant and/or parenting. Treatment is a good investment because treatment 
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