Mesa nonprofit offers medical care to drug-exposed newborns

“Jacob’s Hope" is a safe place for expectant moms dealing with substance use to find support and resources during pregnancy and after their baby is born.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 9:45 PM MST
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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - One out of every five child deaths in Arizona involves substance use. In fact, it’s the most common risk factor for preventable deaths, according to the latest data from the Arizona Child Fatality Review Team from 2021 that was released last year.

You may remember that a 1-year-old boy died from narcotic exposure in Surprise about a week ago. Police arrested 37-year-old Roderick Begay. He’s facing manslaughter, child abuse, and endangerment charges.

A nonprofit in Mesa is working to change these statistics and prevent future tragedies. It’s called “Jacob’s Hope,” and it’s become a safe place for expectant moms dealing with substance use to find support and resources during pregnancy and after their baby is born.

Baby Nathaniel is one month old, and Angelaca Olson is proud to be his mom. “It’s a love that I can’t even describe,” she said. But Olson struggled with substance use and was scared when she found out she was pregnant. She calls Jacob’s Hope life-changing. “Honestly, I would have probably had to have given him up for adoption, but with this, they’ve helped me. I get to keep my baby,” Olson said.

Jacob’s Hope is a 24-hour nursery for newborns exposed to drugs, and since 2019, the organization has helped more than 50 babies and their families. “I don’t know how to put it into words,” said founder Jo Jones.

Jacob’s Hope means everything to Jones. She created it with her husband in honor of their son, Jacob. The couple adopted Jacob when he was three days old. They say his biological mother used crystal meth while pregnant and that prenatal drug exposure affected him throughout his life. Jones said he was smart, athletic, and called to serve in the U.S. Army. “Very proud of him. Wish he was here,” said Jones.

He died in 2014 at just 25 years old. “There was a reason that he went through what he went through,” said Jones. She said that reason is the work she’s able to do in his memory.

“A lot of times, people just don’t know where to turn,” said Community Outreach nurse Jessica Kirkland. She explained that drug-exposed babies need special one-on-one care in a calm, dimly lit environment.

The nonprofit also provides referrals for parents needing housing support and substance use treatment programs. “A lot of these women don’t have access to food or shelter, or they’re struggling with addiction, and that’s just one more hit to that high-stress time in their life,” said Kirkland.

And as new life begins in babies like Nathaniel, Jacob’s legacy lives on. “That’s the goal to help these little babies do better and their families,” said Jones.

Jones said this was the first facility of its kind in Arizona, and there are only nine like it across the country. Jacob’s Hope can care for up to 12 babies at a time and hopes to expand and renovate so families can stay overnight more comfortably.

The nonprofit is always looking for donations and volunteers, and you can even sign up to be a baby cuddler.

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