June is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a withdrawal syndrome that can occur in newborns exposed to certain substances, including opioids, during pregnancy.
Nexus is one of a few facilities in the state that provides services for pregnant women with substance use disorders in order to minimize the effects of NAS and improve birth outcomes. For pregnant women with opioid use disorders, Nexus offers medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which provides the best chance for a healthy mother and newborn.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people with substance use disorders have numerous risks that make them vulnerable to the coronavirus infection, including chronic illnesses, such as heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and death.
To ensure the safety of our clients and prevent the spread of COVID-19, Nexus has partnered with Parkland, the county hospital in Dallas, to provide vaccine clinics for clients in residential and outpatient treatment, alumnae, as well as staff.
Nexus recently held an onsite COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Friday, May 14 for Nexus residential clients. Parkland staff were onsite and administered the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to 28 residential clients and one staff member. This is the third vaccine clinic that Nexus has offered since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved. The first COVID-19 vaccine clinic was held in March for 59 residential clients and 10 staff. In April, Nexus offered COVID-19 vaccines for our outpatient clients and alumnae, vaccinating 27 women.
“Nexus has partnered with Parkland in this vaccination effort to provide clients with the best treatment possible,” says Shawna Bacon, Infection Control Manager. “We strive to provide clients with the knowledge and resources they need to manage their health and wellness, in addition to their recovery.”
Shawna plans to invite Parkland to Nexus regularly to help administer COVID-19 vaccines to our client population. She adds, “Vaccinations are a key part of preventative care and essential to building herd immunity against the COVID-19 virus. Nexus is committed to keeping our clients safe.”
In-person volunteer opportunities resume
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nexus restricted outside visitors, including those providing 12-Step meetings to residential clients, in March 2020 as part of its mitigation protocols to prevent an outbreak on campus. Recognizing the importance of 12-Step meetings to our clients’ recovery process, Nexus leadership has made the decision to allow members of the recovery community to resume bringing Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups to residential clients.
“A key part of our clients’ recovery process is the connections made from in-person groups,” says Stacey Burns, Chief Clinical Officer. “These one-on-one, human connections are lost when the meetings are virtual, which creates a real barrier for our clients who are just beginning their recovery journey.”
Allowing outside 12-Step meetings is the first step to opening up Nexus’ campus to outside visitors and will be reintroduced slowly and carefully to ensure the safety of the women and children on campus. All volunteers at Nexus are required to attend a volunteer orientation to learn about our programs and services, codes of conduct and policies, and undergo a background check and drug testing.
In preparation for the outside groups, Nexus held its first monthly volunteer orientation on Saturday, May 15, for 12 people who will bring in-person AA/NA meetings to campus. The group included several volunteers who had been bringing meetings to Nexus for over 10 years and were eager to get back to helping our clients with their recovery.
“We are so excited to welcome our volunteers from the outside AA/NA community who will support our clients in such a meaningful and impactful way,” says Beth Hunter, Community Engagement and Volunteer Manager. “We look forward to building stronger relationships and expanding our volunteer pool with each monthly orientation.”
“I, too, can change.”
Nexus alumna shares her recovery journey
Xavier Roberts-Jones is a dedicated and compassionate recovery proponent, Irving resident, and a mother of three. This month, she celebrates 19 months of sobriety. While she is proud of this achievement, she knows that her recovery requires constant commitment and vigilance. “I am suffering from a disease, not a moral dilemma.”
Xavier’s life has been marked by childhood trauma, having lost both of her parents to substance abuse and then her grandmother soon after. In spite of these losses, Xavier didn’t start using until she was 33 years old. She began partying, drinking and doing cocaine on weekends after ending an abusive relationship. She soon began to spiral out of control. Xavier never thought she would lose her youngest daughter and end up on the streets, sleeping in her car and selling her body for drugs. She finally hit her rock bottom after she was arrested and faced with the possibility of never being a mom again.
In September 2019, Xavier entered the Adult Women program at Nexus. While in treatment, Xavier met staff members, who were also in long-term recovery. Before Nexus, she thought that she would die because of her addiction, but hearing their stories and seeing the similarities in her own experiences gave her hope. For the first time, Xavier realized, “I, too, can change.”
Xavier completed treatment at Nexus and has remained active in Recovery Support Services (RSS), which has provided the emotional and financial support she needed to rebuild her life. She now has her own condo and a car and is working towards gaining full custody of her youngest daughter, now 13. In her free time, she attends 12-Step meetings, meets with her sponsor, and performs service work. Having these connections and a network within the recovery community has been an intrinsic part of her recovery.
Today, Xavier works at Austin Street Shelter where she is an Intake Specialist for people who are homeless and in need of a bed. As part of her job, she finds out their needs, provides basic needs items, such as shoes, clothing or a hot meal, and helps determine what services Austin Street can offer. She also shares her recovery story in the hopes of reaching just one person. Although her sponsor was concerned that working with the homeless population could be a trigger, Xavier notes that her job is a good reminder of where she never wants to be again. While she loves her job at Austin Street Shelter, Xavier would like a career in recovery. “My dream job is to be at Nexus. I can’t wait to give back to these ladies what was so freely given to me…just a little bit of hope.”
To the donors that made her treatment possible, she says, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for the gift that keeps on giving. You have given me so much. You’ve given me my life back. Without you, I don’t know where I would be.”
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