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Banner hospital supports new moms facing substance abuse

Intensive 'HEAL' program is first of its kind in Phoenix area

Note to editors/producers: A video interview, b-roll, and photos for this story are available for download at this link. The HEAL Program at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix is now available thanks to the Diane & Bruce Halle Foundation.

PHOENIX (May 6, 2021) – Pregnancy is a unique and personal journey for every woman. When substance use, addiction and/or dependency are part of this journey, it can be difficult to know where to turn. To empower expecting moms through their new journey into motherhood, Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix has created an intensive outpatient program to offer resources, treatment options, and support groups to help new moms navigate their pregnancy under difficult circumstances. 

“This intensive outpatient program is the first of its kind in the Phoenix area for pregnant women seeking support and treatment for substance use disorder, regardless of the type of substances used,” said Dr. Laura Stewart, psychologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.

Medical experts from multiple disciplines work together to deliver this comprehensive, 12-week program known as HEAL – (Halle Empowerment Affirmation and Legacy) named after the grant received from the Halle Foundation that made this program possible. This includes an obstetrician/gynecologist, an addiction medicine physician, psychologist, social workers, peer support specialists, wellness advocates, and child life specialists. This fully integrated team works together to provide a safe, judgment-free environment to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. They’re all conveniently located under one roof for ease of transportation and time.

“Medication treatment is incorporated into the plan of care to manage addiction and reduce the baby’s exposure to substances,” said Dr. Stewart.

Patients invest nine hours per week to their care for the first 12 weeks. This includes individual therapy, group therapy, wellness sessions, and educational presentations, both in person and through telehealth. After that, the plan is adjusted to accommodate maintenance of goals. This could be as frequent as twice a week or a monthly check-in for the remainder of a year.

Laura Deciutiis, a new mom who gave birth to Elizabeth Grace in late April, is one of the first patients who participated in the program, finding the resources helpful during pregnancy.

“I was nervous to even go into a program. I was a little standoffish, but Dr. Stewart made me feel super comfortable,” said Deciutiis. “They were there for me every step of the way, taking every phone call -- even at 10 p.m.” 

Laura shared that she has maintained her sobriety since March and has been cleared to breastfeed her baby. 

“I am taking every step to be there for my daughter,” said Laura. “She is just totally worth it.”

Dawn Thomas, wellness advocate for Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, serves on the HEAL team. She focuses on providing health and wellness efforts to help new moms to better manage their mental health concerns, such as stress and anxiety. Mental health is one of the key components of the program, as many participants experience significant emotions while stepping into motherhood -- all while taking care of their own health concerns.

“It helps moms to learn how to self-care so they can take care of their babies,” said Dawn.

As one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the team at Banner Health is committed to ensuring all Banner locations are a safe place for care. Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals and an array of other services, including Banner Imaging, Banner Telehealth, and Banner Urgent Care. Team members are dedicated to protecting the health and safety of patients, be it a routine checkup, elective surgery or an urgent health service. Waiting room and employee workstation layouts maintain proper social distancing; screenings are conducted at hospital entrances to verify that all employees and visitors are well; and, all Banner physicians are equipped to visit patients remotely. Learn more about Banner's commitment to safety at

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