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Gov. Nikki Haley and members of her cabinet stopped in Rock Hill Tuesday to help Keystone Substance Abuse Services celebrate a milestone: the 100th baby born drug-free because of the groups help.
More specifically, with the help of Keystones inpatient residency program, which offers around-the-clock treatment for mothers seeking to kick substance abuse habits and deliver healthy babies or become reunited with their children.
Weve got a lot to do in South Carolina, and quality of life is more than just beaches and mountains, Haley said. Quality of life is really taking care of the people that we have.
If we start at the very beginning, then we know we can take care of them as they go through life, she said. If were not even taking care of them at the beginning, then theyre already starting at a disadvantage.
Also there to help celebrate were two mothers who have been through the program.
Angela Wentzs daughter Savannah Flannery is the programs 100th baby, and now shes healthy and shes with her family, Wentz said.
They stick by you, Wentz, 37, said of Keystone. They never have left my side.
Marqueti Fitts, 28, is mother of Princess Kymiyah, or healthy baby number 91.
I got here and realized that everything I was doing was so warped, said Fitts who was eight weeks pregnant with Kymiyah when she was arrested for unlawful conduct toward a child and her three other children were taken from her.
While in jail, someone mentioned Keystone as a way to get her children back, and she made a call, she said. The judge released her into Keystones care.
Recalling her life before Keystone, Fitts said she was working two jobs, and trying to take care of her children, 6, 8 and 10 years old, but not taking care of herself or making good choices.
My children knew more about drugs than they should have known even by 16, 18 years old, and theyre being exposed to this by me, their mother....Keystone helped me to see that youre not a bad person, youre making bad choices.
Now Fitts is studying psychology at York Technical College and feels shes created a new life for herself and her children.
Keystone is one of the states 33 centers substance abuse authorities.
It receives nearly half of its support from Medicaid and other federal sources, 20 percent from client fees, 15 percent from the state, 13 percent from York County and the remainder from grants and other sources. State and federal support comes through the states Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.
Keystones residential program began addressing an unmet need in 1998 following a legal decision that allowed for the prosecution of pregnant women using lethal substances, said Janet Martini, Keystones executive director.
Prior to the program, some women were avoiding seeking prenatal care and substance abuse treatment facilities out of fear of legal charges being brought against them, Martini said.
Now, with a completion rate of 90 percent, each year an average of 55 women are served, 7 babies are born drug-free, and 24 women are reunited with their children resulting in closure of their DSS cases, she said.
With Keystone, York is only one of five counties in the state where women can receive the services, said Lillian Koller, state director of the Department of Social Services. Other programs are in Greenville, Florence, Charleston and Colleton counties.
Haley has set a goal of doubling similar services in the state, through partnerships with local stakeholders.
One such partnership will expand those services in York County.
The state-focused nonprofit Children Come First is working with state and local officials to launch a pilot program that will allow mothers and children impacted by substance abuse to remain together for treatment, instead of the child being taken from the parent and put in foster care, said Naomi Torfin, executive director of Children Come First.
York Place, a psychiatric residential treatment facility in York, is one of the three sites slated for the pilot program, including Greenville and Columbia. Keystone will assist with the substance abuse treatment component of services.
While details are still in the works, the family care center will provide a place for mothers and their children to live together while seeking treatment in areas focusing on parenting, education and life skills, child development, and family and community building, Torfin said.
Money from state legal settlements with pharmaceutical companies accused of false advertising will help pay for the expansion of the services statewide, said Tony Keck, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Its usually several million dollars a year that come back into Medicaid and one-time money that could be used to expand these types of programs, Keck said.
Its pretty innovative that the whole family can receive treatment while living together instead of being broken up, said Marco Tomat, president and CEO of York Place.
The on-site family treatment facility is a natural next step for York Place, which has recently opened two outreach counseling centers in York County treating families, not just children, he said.
Families will live in the large, old renovated homes on York Places 120-acre campus, while staff are on site to supervise. A learning center nearby with classrooms will offer children not ready for integration in public schools a place to learn, he said.
The center will provide a wonderful place to allow for treatment and healing while they live here, Tomat said.