INDIANAPOLIS — The drug epidemic has now spread to some of the most vulnerable, potentially impacting the youngest victims — pregnant mothers and their babies.
Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signed a bill aimed at reducing Indiana's high infant mortality rate, to ensure more babies reach their first birthday.
With that, help is available in the Indianapolis community that is connecting moms with the treatment they need.
When Shaquita Gilbert first came to the Circle City, she says she was broken and for three years she struggled with addiction.
"Started off like a fun thing and then I started doing it more often," Gilbert said. 'And then it didn't become fun anymore."
Her fears worsened when she found out she was pregnant.
"Honestly, I didn't slow down. I didn't speed up. I just kept on the pace I was on," Gilbert said. She continued to use drugs.
"The whole time I didn't want to be getting high and pregnant," she said. "I was using and I went into labor."
Doctors found drugs in Gilbert's system when her daughter, Shanice, was born. Shanice went to live with a close friend, while Gilbert went to Fresh Start Recovery.
"I just prayed that she would be a healthy baby. And that's all I could do," Gilbert said.
Shanice might've inherited her mother's eyes but, luckily, not her dependency on drugs. Sadly, that's not the case for others.
"Typically if a baby is born with something like neonatal abstinence syndrome, they would be admitted to the NICU for a period of time and then, if the court allows it, reunified with mom here at the center," Amber Cocco, behavioral health division senior director, said.
Milk and morphine go hand in hand for babies who are born addicted. The reality is: they have to give babies the narcotic back and slowly wean them off.
Thankfully, Shanice did not show symptoms of withdrawal.
But Gilbert knew if she wanted to give her baby the life she deserves, she needed help.
"My fear would be losing her," Gilbert said. "I don't ever want to lose her."
Initially, a judge didn't let Gilbert's daughter join her. But after a couple months at the residential recovery center, Shanice moved in.
Some of the things mothers learn and go through at Fresh Start Recovery is parenting skills, child development, education, trauma recovery treatment, substance use and mental health treatment.
"It is not a choice. It is not a will power issue," Cocco said. "It is not a matter of how much you love your children."
"I feel like she's going to be a strong little lady," Gilbert said. "And she's going to be a fighter and she's going to be amazing."
Mother, or expectant mothers, stay on average for about 45 days. Mother can bring up to two of their children with them.
Fresh Start Recovery has helped move more than 700 moms since 2015. As of last year, 34 women became mothers while at the facility, and all of their babies were born healthy with no drugs in their system.