By Mark Powell
It all started with a desperate phone call. Abi’s situation was serious. She homeless. She was using heroin. She was pregnant. And she urgently needed help.
Abi caught the attention of Kerry Norton, a prenatal nurse at a local women’s health center. Kerry’s son had overdosed just as Abi’s older sister had. This was a situation that Kerry had seen far too often, causing her to develop an interest in the 23-year old mom-to be.
But Abi didn’t make it easy, skipping medical appointments, and her lack of a home complicated things even more.
Then came the call. Abi told Kerry she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for four days. She was soaking wet. She was in despair. Homelessness was leading to hopelessness.
Kerry threw herself into finding a treatment facility that would take Abi. Yet she couldn’t come up with one. An experienced medical professional, she simply couldn’t navigate the complex requirements, rules, and regulations of different treatment facilities.
Persistence finally paid off and Abi, then eight months pregnant, eventually received help in Nashua. But Kerry’s work wasn’t finished. How many other Abi’s out there were in similar situations? How many were going untreated?
Frustrated, unable to sleep, and not knowing what else to do, Kerry reached out on social media late one night. Did anyone have connections to Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen DeGeneres, or any other wealthy celebrity who could bankroll a much-needed residential treatment program for pregnant women struggling in the grips of substance use disorder, she asked?
No, Dr. Colene Arnold replied, she didn’t know Oprah or Ellen or any other VIP. But she had an 1856 farmhouse and had wanted to do the same thing for several years.
That was June 2015. Hope on Haven Hill opened its doors on December 6, 2016. And it’s been busily providing the quality promised in its name, hope, ever since.
More than a treatment facility, it’s a place where women and their families both can receive healing. “If a woman is brave enough to ask for help, it is on us to give them those services,” Kerry Norton said.
People in recovery need a lot of structure in their life. Hope on Haven Hill provides it. Within its safe, nurturing environment its residents learn discipline, coping strategies, parenting skills, everything necessary for turning around their lives.
More than anything else, it provides an infusion of self-confidence and optimism. And its lessons are already impacting the next generation of Granite Staters. “That’s a gift Haven Hill has given me,” says Nicole, a resident, “to be the best mom I can be.”
From its modest beginnings, Hope on Haven Hill is expanding its outreach. It will soon include a building dedicated to outpatient services and enjoys broad support from people all across New Hampshire.Nobody knows for sure how many more Abi’s are out there. They’re hidden in the shadows, lost between the cracks of a system that, until now had largely been unable to help them. But Hope on Haven Hill is changing how pregnant women struggling with addiction are treated. And it started because one desperate woman reached out for help, and one determined woman provided it.
Hope on Haven Hill was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.