Two factors led Alison Espin to offer Family Planning and Healthy Living presentations at the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County (MHA).
Compared with the rest of New York State, Chautauqua County has a high incidence of babies born with NAS: neonatal abstinence syndrome. As a result of their mothers taking opioids — either prescribed painkillers or heroin — these infants were exposed to drugs in the womb and can experience drug withdrawal after birth.
In addition, with the closing of county family planning clinics in December, 2015, there are increasing barriers to getting birth control for the high risk population MHA serves.
Espin oversees the Opiate Overdose Prevention Program in the county as part of her work for the Nurse Family Partnership through the Chautauqua County Health Department. Beginning last January, at noon on the first Thursday of every month she gives a talk on the methods of birth control and where to go to get them, STD’s, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.
While every group is different, there are usually 15-20 participants, both male and female.
“Our conversations usually evolve to whatever the participants want to talk about, and I spend some time dispelling myths — of which there are many!” Espin says.
Explaining that she tries to incorporate as much humor as possible, the Registered Nurse Supervisor says that her motivation for this work, “Comes from my sincere desire to connect those in need to the people that can help. For this particular group, the message is that if they are ‘in use’ or in ‘the first year of recovery,’ they need a method of birth control, as their bodies are just not ready for a healthy pregnancy.” She says they may be using risky sexual behaviors, and she recommends STD testing every three months if they have more than one partner.
Like all of the more than two dozen groups and classes that meet every week at the MHA, Family Planning and Healthy Living is free and open to the public.
The Mental Health Association is located at 31 Water Street, Door 14, in the rear of the Gateway Center.
The MHA works in collaboration with local treatment providers, other non-profits, and treatment courts to help participants be successful in attaining their goals. In an accepting environment, it provides recovery coaching by certified peer specialists as well as support groups and classes. There is no charge for any of the MHA’s services or programs.
To learn more about the MHA and its many programs, call (716) 661-9044 or visit www.mhachautauqua.org or www.facebook.com/MHAChautauqua. A list of support groups and classes is at www.mhachautauqua.org/services.
Anyone with questions or in need of services for themselves or a family member is welcome to call or stop in. Hours are Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.