A new nonprofit aims to provide a space for babies experiencing withdrawal

Maddie's Place's founder Tricia Hughes. - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
Maddie's Place's founder Tricia Hughes.

A nonprofit nursery for babies recovering from substance withdrawal is set to open in Spokane later this year. The nursery, called Maddie's Place, has been in the works for several years. Founder Tricia Hughes says the project was inspired by deep personal experience.

In 2008 Tricia and her husband, Carey, adopted a 3-week-old baby named Maddie. It was immediately clear that something was wrong; the baby was shaking, vomiting and sweating profusely. She was also showing an aversion to noise and eye contact. Hughes took Maddie to a doctor, who confirmed that the baby was going through severe opiate withdrawal.

Over the next six months, Tricia learned to care for Maddie. She kept the baby in a tight wrap close to her body and worked to create a calm, nurturing environment. It was a difficult experience, but when Maddie recovered, Tricia was inspired to keep up the work.

Maddie was experiencing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which is caused when a baby experiences withdrawal from drugs they were exposed to in the womb. The U.S Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that nearly 80 newborns a day are diagnosed with the syndrome.

"I realized there were more and more kids coming into care that looked like this as the opiate crisis just built," Tricia says.

Over the next decade, Tricia fostered several other babies going through withdrawal. The idea for Maddie's Place began to take shape when Carey suggested she consider expanding her efforts.

"My husband was like, 'We can't adopt them all, you can't do it by yourself, maybe you can teach other people to do what you're doing,'" Hughes laughs.

Infants going through substance withdrawal are typically discharged from the hospital within a couple days, Tricia says. With Maddie's Place, she hopes to provide an environment that can help support long-term recovery. The nursery will have a staff of nurses, social workers and volunteers to help families care for babies.

Construction for Maddie's Place is underway. The bright lights and noises of hospitals can be excruciating for newborns experiencing withdrawal, so Tricia is focusing on making the facility feel gentle and calming.

"We're going for like a home but with all the availability of medical care if you need it," she says.

Maddie's Place is planning for a soft launch on Nov. 1, with capacity for three babies and their families. The facility will fully open with capacity for 17 on March 1.

"We've just been overwhelmed with the support and generosity we've received for Maddie's Place," Hughes says. "We're so excited to get started." ♦