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Lynn Program Helps New Mothers Struggling With Opioid Addiction

LYNN (CBS) - Recent research shows the opioid epidemic can be especially deadly for new mothers. When it comes to finding help, long-term options are not usually available. A unique program in Lynn is giving moms the kind of help they need.

Jessica Cardinal found the help she needed at the Johnson Street residential treatment program. The 24-year-old recovering heroin addict is now slowly rebuilding her life. A mother of two, Jessica says her darkest days are unrecognizable.

"It ended with me in a car shooting heroin with my kid in the back. And that, to me, was my rock bottom," she recalled. "There's just so much pain, so much guilt, so much shame around that and I didn't want to feel like that anymore."

CBS visited Jessica in the final weeks of her 15-month stay at Johnson Street, which is specifically designed for women and mothers struggling with addiction.

The hardest part for her? "Balancing being a mother and my recovery."

At Johnson Street, women lean on each other for support, through daily group counseling sessions. It is also a safe space for pregnant women and new mothers, which means Jessica was able to keep her youngest child with her.

"I didn't know how to be a mother or how to do everyday things when I first came here," she said. "Coming here they kind of teach you how to do that all over again, back to the basics, making your bed, cooking, cleaning, getting on a schedule."

A recent Massachusetts study found that, in their first year after pregnancy, new mothers addicted to opioids are at a higher risk for an overdose, due in part to the lack of resources available to them, as well as the shame and stigma.

That is why Johnson Street Clinical Director Joanna Huntington says women are not left on their own when they walk out the doors.

"We're meeting with them once a week, ensure that they're going to their meetings, they're meeting with their sponsor, they're meeting with their therapist. So it's just that added support."

Jessica is now living on her own, with both of her children. She is still not using and says, right now, that is all she can ask for.

"I want them to have a good life, and be happy and safe and healthy."


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