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Toledo Community Foundation partners with mental health provider Harbor to change lives even before they begin

When Kelly first learned of Chrysalis — northwest Ohio’s only inpatient drug treatment program for expectant mothers — she was pregnant, drug-addicted, and on her way to prison. So her turnaround in the program has been nothing short of remarkable.

Thankfully, that turnaround is by no means unique.

"I came to Chrysalis broken, with a baby, and they've helped me put my life back together."

Kelly, Chrysalis graduate and mother of Jace

“Since we started in 2016, we’ve had 48 women deliver 19 babies* in Harbor’s Chrysalis program,” says Stephanie Calmes, Clinical Director of Harbor Behavioral Health Services, who oversees the Chrysalis program. “And every one of those babies has been born full-term, full-weight, and drug free. That’s a remarkable achievement, and we’re looking forward to helping even more women accomplish this.”

Kelly’s prison sentence turned out to be a lifesaver, not only for her, but for her new baby boy, Jace — because it was the attorney handling her case that referred her to Chrysalis. “If it weren’t for Chrysalis, I probably would have stayed with the baby’s father, who was also using drugs, and nothing would have changed. Now, my son and I have a future.”

The potential for even more women like Kelly to deliver healthy babies and become drug-free inspired the Toledo Community Foundation. TCF awarded a $200,000 grant to expand the Chrysalis program of Harbor and move it from Bowling Green, Ohio, to Toledo.

Investing strategically for maximum impact

The grant proposal to expand Chrysalis from five to 16 inpatient beds was a large funding request, and the research conducted by Foundation staff helped the board quickly realize that the returns on an investment in this program would be profound.

“When I realized what this program was positioned to accomplish, I knew that we had to give it serious consideration,” stated Susan Palmer, TCF board member and Grants & Distribution Committee chair.

“Typically, a drug-addicted mother will deliver a drug-addicted baby who won’t make it to full term,” Chris Dziad, TCF program officer explained. “A low-birth-weight baby with neonatal absti- nence syndrome (NAS) suffers greatly their first months of life, and usually spends those months in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“Those NICU stays typically cost $1/2 million per child — and the baby can end up with serious developmental issues,” said Chris. “Once those children leave the hospital, they will likely go home to mothers who still are abusing drugs and who may be imprisoned or even die of an overdose — and then the child ends up in foster care.”

The double impact of improving outcomes for both mothers and their children also led the ProMedica Foundation to intensify their support of Chrysalis, and to approach TCF for funding.

“Since 2015, the ProMedica Foundation’s major annual fundraising event has supported mental health services and awareness,” said ProMedica Foundation’s chief philanthropic officer, Gary Cates. “In 2017, we met with Harbor and asked, ‘What if we used those funds to invest in a big way for significant impact in one specific area?’”

Because the program benefitted two at-risk populations at once, Chrysalis was their choice. ProMedica decided to devote a portion of the proceeds from their annual Unmasking Mental Health event to facilitate the Chrysalis program.

To scale up to a level of operation where Chrysalis could benefit from self-sustaining levels of revenue, Chrysalis needed additional resources. “We saw Toledo Community Foundation as a natural partner in supporting the Toledo-based program, because we knew it would have wide-ranging positive impact throughout the community,” Gary said.

Outcomes are key to ongoing support

“Everyone at the Foundation weighed this decision thoroughly,” noted Susan. “What led us to decide in favor of this proposal was not only the promise of helping moms and kids — it was the evidence-based treatment model Chrysalis follows.

“Other programs like this have established well-researched benchmarks and protocols for client success,” she explained.

“Chrysalis must show that they are following those protocols, and that they have a reasonably solid record of success.”

Kelly affirms the importance of those benchmarks. “You don’t just serve out your days here — you have to complete the program,” she said. “Girls know that if they want to stay here, they follow the rules — and most want to be here. They WANT to get better.”

Besides developing childrearing skills and techniques to cope with stress, the Chrysalis program emphasizes helping mothers develop a stable home to return to when they leave the program.

“In 2007, I was in another facility for 28 days,” said Kelly. “It wasn’t successful because they didn’t deal with core relation- ship issues, or my living situation.” In contrast, Chrysalis works with clients not only to build a strong support network but also to secure a safe place to live, a job or plans for schooling, medical resources for both mom and baby, and a substance after-care plan and provider for mom.

“I had the mindset that I had to be a perfect mom, and then my baby would be perfect, too,” said Kelly. “Now I realize I can be a good mom, and that’s good! I’ve got some great coping skills now — and I’ve learned that when something gets hard, it’s OK to ask for help.”

*As of June 2018.

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