15-Month Residential Treatment Program At 'Johnson Street' In Lynn, Massachusetts Is Specifically Designed For Women


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The surprising face of the opioid crisis is a group you wouldn’t think would be addicted.

It’s new mothers and new research shows the epidemic can be especially deadly for them. CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports about an innovative program to help moms get sober.

Many people have an image of what an addict looks like, but as we’ve learned the opioid epidemic has spread to virtually every socioeconomic, racial and ethnic group in the nation.

Effective addiction treatment is different for different groups. That’s especially true for new moms.

Jessica Cardinal, 24, is a mother of two and a recovering heroin addict.

“It ended with me in a car shooting heroin with my kid in the back, and that, to me, was my rock-bottom,” Cardinal said. “So much guilt, so much shame around that and I didn’t want to feel like that anymore.”

Research shows more and more young mothers are getting caught up in the opioids crisis. (Photo: CBS2)

That’s what led Jessica to Johnson Street, a 15-month long residential treatment program in Lynn, Massachusetts, specifically designed for women and mothers struggling with addiction.

There, women lean on each other for support through daily group counseling sessions. It’s also a safe space for pregnant women and new mothers, which means Jessica was able to keep her youngest child with her.

“I didn’t know how to be a mother or how to do everyday things when I first came here,” Cardinal said. “Coming here they kind of teach you how to do that all over again. Back to the basics, making your bed, cooking, cleaning, getting on a schedule.”

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A recent study in Massachusetts shows new mothers with opioid use disorder are at a higher risk for an overdose, due in part to the lack of resources available to them, plus the shame and stigma.

That’s why Johnson Street director Joanna Huntington says women aren’t left on their own when they walk out the door.

“We’re meeting with them once a week, ensure that they’re going to their meetings, they’re meeting with their sponsor, they’re meeting with their therapist, so it’s just that added support,” Huntington said.

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Jessica is now living with both her of children on her own.

“I want them to have a good life, and be happy and safe and healthy,” she said.

Jessica is still sober but knows it’s a day-by-day battle to stay that way. In case you think she’s an unusual case, studies show opioid overdose rates among women ages 30 to 65 have risen nearly 500 percent in the past 20 years.