Jill Kingston, left, executive director of Brigid’s Path, talked last year about passage of the CRIB Act. The act, a bipartisan bill, expands access to facilities like Brigid’s Path that provide specialized, family-based treatment options for babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). With Kingston are Kim Kleinhans, director of Family Advocacy, center, and Ashley Evans, a client of Brigid’s Path. Evans was invited to the State of the Union address by President Trump. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Kettering care center gets national attention with Trump’s State of the Union

Brigid’s Path, the state’s first crisis care nursery for drug-exposed newborns, is in the national spotlight after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump invited a local woman who has struggled with opioid addiction as one of their guests for the State of the Union Tuesday night.

Ashley Evans, who grew up in Dayton and now lives in Columbus, has been in recovery for one year and one month as of Saturday, and her recovery began when her daughter, Olivia, was born. Olivia was cared for by Brigid’s Path in Kettering as Evans was battling her drug addiction.

Evans became addicted to pain killers after she was prescribed medicine for an ankle injury. After the birth of Olivia last year, she entered a rehabilitation program while Olivia was cared for by Brigid’s Path.

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Brigid’s Path, the state’s first crisis care nursery for drug-exposed newborns, is in the national spotlight after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump invited a local woman who has struggled with opioid addiction as one of their guests for the State of the Union Tuesday night.

Ashley Evans, who grew up in Dayton and now lives in Columbus, has been in recovery for one year and one month as of Saturday, and her recovery began when her daughter, Olivia, was born. Olivia was cared for by Brigid’s Path in Kettering as Evans was battling her drug addiction.

Ashley Evans: Local woman going to SOTU

Evans became addicted to pain killers after she was prescribed medicine for an ankle injury. After the birth of Olivia last year, she entered a rehabilitation program while Olivia was cared for by Brigid’s Path.

On Feb. 15, Evans will finally re-unite with Olivia, who she has visited as often as four times every week.

“It’s been a long year,” she said. “A lot of hard work. But it’s paid off. I am so excited to get her, to be a mom and just enjoy my time to her.”

The Kettering facility is the only center in Ohio that treats infants going through withdrawal after being exposed to certain drugs in the womb, and only one of two places in the country that specifically treats babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2017, nearly 2,000 infants in Ohio were treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when babies withdraw from opioids they are exposed to during pregnancy.

In 2015, there had been 2,174 hospital admissions for neonatal abstinence syndrome, and an average of 84 infants were being treated for drug withdrawal by Ohio hospitals every day.

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Moment in the spotlight

Evans’ journey to Washington essentially began last March when U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar met with her during a visit to Brigid’s Path.

“I told him my story,” she said Tuesday. “He was touched by it and he put my name in to be able to come.”

A week ago, a White House official called her at her new apartment in Columbus and invited her to attend the speech. Evans said she was “shocked” and “started pacing the floors” after the call.

“Words cannot describe how we feel watching her (Evans) succeed and become the mom she was meant to be for her baby. Ashley Evans is an incredible mom. Her journey has been inspiring and I hope an inspiration to all. I pray that all moms and moms that chose to come to Brigid’s Path will be encouraged by her hard work and success,” said Jill Kingston, executive director of Brigid’s Path.

Ashley Evans

Jane Snyder, director or development for the nonprofit, said getting national attention helps to bring more interest into the agency’s mission. She said Ashley has persevered and overcome many obstacles to maintain her sobriety and is passionate about sharing her story of hope.

“The more people that talk to us and the more people that know what we are doing, the better it is for us,” Snyder said. “We are Ohio’s first newborn recovery center, so it has always been a part of our mission to let people know that what we do here is unique as we care for the babies who are going through withdrawal.”

During her whirlwind day in Washington Tuesday, Evans also met Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen.

“He thanked me for coming and I told him that I was honored to be there and excited to be here,” Evans said. “His wife said something along the lines that she was very proud of me and I am a shining star.”

Impact of legislation on Brigid’s Path

Brigid’s Path opened its doors at the end of 2017, accepting its first baby on December 29, 2017.

“In the first year of operations, we have cared for 33 babies and provided assistance to 102 caregivers in six different Ohio counties,” Snyder said.

The passage of a bipartisan bill, in October 2018, the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies Act, or CRIB, will benefit facilities like it that provide specialized, family-based treatment options for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Evans thanked President Trump Tuesday night for signing the bill.

Passage of the legislation will now allow Medicaid to cover certain health care services provided to infants in residential pediatric recovery facilities and hospitals. It will also clarify that babies receiving services in residential pediatric recovery centers can continue to receive services after one year of age, and provide for activities to encourage caregiver-infant bonding.

“The CRIB Act was one of our big hurdles to get through and that passed just a few months ago with President Trump signing it,” Snyder said. “The next step is that we have to work with the state We are a crisis center and so now the funding through the Social Security Act allows for the funding to come to a facility like us.”

“I’m so proud of all she has accomplished, now celebrating more than a year of sobriety, and in 10 days she will be reunited with her daughter full time,” Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, met Evans during a visit to Brigid’s Path recently.

“After suffering a relapse during her pregnancy, Ashley has worked with Brigid’s Path to treat her child and herself. Brigid’s Path provides specialized, family-based treatment options for babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome,” Turner said.

On Tuesday night, Evans said she wants President Trump and lawmakers to keep working to fight the opioid epidemic.

“It’s going to continue killing people if something isn’t done about it,” Evans said. “Every addict out there deserves a chance. There is a possibility to recover.”

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