Substance Abuse Program for Pregnant Women Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Dena A Coy celebrated its 20th anniversary today. Part of the Southcentral Foundation, Dena A Coy was the first residential program in the United States designed to treat pregnant women for alcohol and drug abuse in an effort to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

Carolee Kuka-Hindin was awarded special recognition for her 20-year dedication to the Dena A Coy program. Kuka-Hindin has watched the program grow from a small facility that could only house 18 women to a multi-service organization that has provided care for hundreds of women, toddlers, and infants.

She says that one of the most important parts of the program is the element of mental health treatment services.

“The women have a real lengthy history of trauma, starting in childhood. So addressing those issues of trauma in addition to the substance abuse issues makes a much nicer path for recovery.”

When the program started in 1981, little was known about fetal alcohol syndrome. As more facts have become available about the effects of alcohol use during pregnancy, Kuka-Hindin says that community support for women seeking treatment has increased.

“So I think women are talking to their providers, their healthcare providers about their situations. Services though, I think, I mean treatment services across the state have been reduced over time.”

Citing funding as one of the unavoidable challenges for treatment programs, Kuka-Hindin says that the “missing piece” for Dena A Coy is to find a transitional housing solution for their out-patient program. She says housing is increasingly limited in Anchorage, and villages have even less available for families. Safe housing is key to continued treatment.

“So that when women finish treatment they still have the continuum of care with Dena A Coy out-patient services so we can continue them in out-patient support services for six to nine months, but it really is essential that they have a safe place to be living.”

Dena A Coy was cited in 1997 as a model therapeutic program for pregnant women in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

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