Construction is well underway on the Women’s Wellness Campus, an initiative that will expand the School of Nursing’s successful Casa Mia program that provides recovery housing, structure, support and hope for mothers with substance use disorder.
“We are one of the few initiatives in the nation that provides a program that allows mothers to recover from substance use with their babies,” said Lisa Cleveland, PhD, APRN, FAAN, professor of nursing and pediatrics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Cleveland and Kevin Downey, PhD, retired CEO of Crosspoint Inc., partnered in 2018 to begin Casa Mia in a two-story brick home in the Monte Vista neighborhood.
Due to the increasing need for recovery housing for women and children, they are now working to expand the program on a new Women’s Wellness Campus at 1500 Semlinger Road, also in San Antonio. The Women’s Wellness Campus will include supportive living arrangements for mothers and babies, like they have at the current location. However, the new location will also include an on-site clinic and nursery staffed by School of Nursing faculty members, as well as a childcare center.
“Many of the mothers we serve have experienced significant trauma that contributed to their substance use,” Cleveland said. “Most recovery programs for pregnant and parenting mothers who use substances do not allow mothers to keep their babies or young children with them. Instead, Child Protective Services often becomes involved and children are at risk for entering the foster care system if living arrangements cannot be found among family members or friends of the mother,” she explained.
“While placing their child in foster care may seem like a safe option, it prevents mothers and babies from bonding and adds to a continuing cycle of trauma that can affect future generations,” Cleveland said.
Babies of mothers who use substances, particularly opioids, are at risk for developing a condition of physical withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, which may lead to a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit where babies experience additional separation from their mothers and other family members. The nursery on the Women’s Wellness Campus will allow these infants to be cared for in an environment that can be customized to their unique needs — while staying close to their mothers, she said.
Not long after Cleveland and Downey opened Casa Mia in 2018 it became clear that a larger facility would be needed due to the program’s success. “We were running at 80% occupancy,” Cleveland said of the facility that houses 20 mothers and children.
In 2020, Cleveland obtained $3.8 million from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that is contributing to the new state-of-the-art Women’s Wellness Campus. In addition to a new facility for Casa Mia, with double the current capacity, the clinic and NAS nursery, the campus will eventually serve Crosspoint’s other female populations, such as those receiving mental health services and women who have experienced human trafficking or incarceration.
“The foundations for the new Casa Mia facility and the clinic and NAS nursery are finished. The completion date for this part of the new campus is expected to be in early 2024,” Cleveland said.