The UMKC School of Nursing and Health Studies would like to commend our very own, Sarah Knopf-Amelung for the great work she is doing as an organizer of Kc Perinatal Recovery Collaborative. Read the full story below:
A day after her son Asher was born, state social workers paid a visit to Amber Johnson in the hospital. She had tested positive for meth, marijuana and painkillers during her pregnancy and, fearful she would lose her son, told them about her addiction.
“I’d never talked to anybody about it before, but I just opened up about what was going on,” Johnson says. “I was honest with them that I did have an issue and that there was also domestic violence issues going on at home, and that I was just stuck in a really bad situation.”
Three weeks later, Asher was taken into protective custody along with his sister, Indica. Johnson was devastated.
“It was the most excruciating thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” Johnson says. “I felt like my life had ended. I didn’t even feel like a person anymore. I was just like a shell.”
Since 2011, the number of Missouri infants born dependent on opioids has more than quadrupled. At the same time, the number of children entering the foster care system has increased, and experts think that’s connected to parents’ drug use.
Turning old ideas upside down
Kansas City health and social service groups are now trying to reverse these trends with a strategy that turns upside down old ideas about children and parents who’ve used drugs.
In short, they’re working to keep those families together.
After Johnson’s children were taken from her, she moved into a domestic violence shelter and entered an intensive recovery program with one goal in mind: getting her kids back.
“I basically just dedicated my life to changing my life,” Johnson says. “I had nothing else. My kids were everything to me.”
Children’s Mercy Hospital neonatologist Jodi Jackson says the birth of a child can be an opportunity for transformation, even for women who’ve used drugs for years.
“The maternal-infant bond is strong enough that that gives us our chance to get in and now we can actually do something,” Jackson says. “Don’t do it for you. Do it for your baby.”
That opportunity for transformation can be squandered, however, when the children of mothers in recovery end up in foster care.
Removal is hard on the children, too. Foster kids are at high lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and behavioral and learning problems.
Keeping families intact
Sarah Knopf-Amelung, a senior research associate at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies, is an organizer of KC Perinatal Recovery Collaborative, which provides drug recovery, housing, counseling, job support and education services to mothers in recovery.
“The substance use disorder we’re now seeing is a disorder,” Knopf-Amelung says. “It’s a disease. And we wouldn’t remove a child because a parent has diabetes or heart disease. So similarly, we’re advocating for trying to provide the proper treatment and recovery supports to the mother so that we can try to keep the family intact.”
It’s costly care, funded by a patchwork of federal, state and private agencies, that may be required for years.
But Dr. Jackson says the payoff can be immense. Mothers in recovery who can stay with their children are far more likely to stay sober, which can put an end to generational cycles of substance abuse.
“That’s the vision we need to have,” Jackson says. “It’s like break the cycle and we reduce the costs of foster care and state intervention and the cost of supporting a woman who’s nonfunctional. So, in the long run, it’s incredibly beneficial to do this.”
Potential for abuse
But the approach is not without risks. After all, some of the most common drugs to treat opioid addiction, like methadone, are narcotics themselves.
“There is the potential for abuse,” says Stacee Read, director of development for the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, which aims to protect children from potential abuse and neglect that can occur when a parent uses drugs.
Treatment with methadone and other recovery drugs is usually closely monitored, but it can go off the rails.
“If mom goes to the doctor, and they don’t see her take the medication, if mom leaves there and then sells it on the street for money for something else, that becomes an issue and we do see that quite a bit,” Read says.
Read thinks programs like the one in Kansas City can work very well given the presence of treatment clinics, recovery homes and sympathetic employers.
But in many small towns and rural areas hit hard by opioids, the same kind of program can be much harder to implement.
“The parts of the country that do not have accessibility that some of the larger cities would have become a problem for families. Not only with addiction but with a lot of other things as well,” Read says.
It took three months of hard recovery work, but Amber Johnson was finally able to get her kids back.
Red-headed Asher is now 3 years old and the family lives at Amethyst Place, a recovery home in Kansas City.
Johnson is studying interior design and her family is healthy, although Johnson worries at times about whether her past drug use may have long-term effects on her son or if her recovery might falter someday.
“Do I think I’ll relapse? No,” Johnson says. “But I’d be lying if I said that that doesn’t cross my mind. I think that since I’m an addict, it’s going to be something that I’m going to live with for the rest of my life.”
But right now, all the signs point to the children and their mother being better off. They are, after all, together.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies was awarded $676,000 to distribute to nursing students pursuing doctoral and master’s degrees who plan to be future nurse faculty. Priority is given to doctoral students in the award.
The Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) 2018-2019 award amount is the largest in UMKC history. The program, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers partial loan forgiveness for borrowers who graduate and serve as full-time nursing faculty for the prescribed time period. The loan recipients can cancel 85 percent of the loan over four years in return for serving full time equivalents as faculty in any accredited school of nursing.
Dean Ann Cary is the principal investigator on the grant. For more information please contact Ms. Becky Boettcher or access the application link starting July 3, 2018 at: Apply Now!
Lori Erickson, Teresa King and Debra Sims, all students in the School of Nursing and Health Studies doctoral program, are among the 2018-2020 cohort of 200 students selected from universities nationwide.
“We are fortunate to have our three students selected in national competition as Jonas Scholars and are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Jonas for their to the doctoral nursing workforce pipeline.” said Dean Ann Cary.
Partnering with universities across the country, scholarships from the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare provide $10,000 in funding over two years, as well as leadership development and networking opportunities.
Launched in 2008 to address the nursing faculty shortage, the Jonas Scholars initiative has grown in both reach and scope to support more than 1,000 Scholars in all 50 states who have transitioned into roles as faculty, clinical leaders and researchers. Upon its ten-year mark, Jonas refined the goal of the program to “improving healthcare through targeted investments in high-potential doctoral nursing students whose research and clinical foci specifically address our nation’s most pressing healthcare needs.”
The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Nursing and Health Studies a two-year $700,000 grant to train 20 advanced practice registered nursing instructors and 20 students in Missouri rural health clinics.
In the state, 37 percent of the population lives in rural areas where there is a drastic shortage of healthcare providers, said Jane Peterson, an adjunct nursing instructor and one of the principal investigators on the grant along with Margaret Brommelsiek, an associate research professor.
This grant will increase the number of nurse practitioners who have the specific knowledge and skills needed to meet the diverse and multifaceted health needs of rural Missourians.
“Ultimately, the residents of Missouri will experience greater access to primary care through the pioneering efforts of the leaders of this grant who are demonstrating their foresight in addressing the primary-care shortage in our rural areas,” said Ann Cary, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
The project will extend an ongoing relationship with UMKC and Saint Luke’s Health System by expanding its existing academic-practice partnership to three rural primary care clinics located in three underserved Missouri counties: Wright Memorial Physicians’ Group in Trenton; Hedrick Family Practice in Chillicothe; and Saint Luke’s Medical Group in Clinton.
Agrawal comes to UMKC after 15 years at the University of Texas-San Antonio, where he progressed from professor to dean to vice president and interim provost. He is a native of India, a U.S. citizen, a bioengineer, oil painting hobbyist, former auto industry executive, an inventor who holds 29 patents and an entrepreneur whose bioengineering research group has been responsible for starting three companies in San Antonio.
He calls his new home town “a city on the rise.”
“Kansas City is an economically strong region that is poised to have a national impact,” he said. “As a public university, we can be one of the anchors for this great region. We’re ready and we have a great team.”
The UMKC community met their new chancellor at a welcome event Feb. 9, shortly after the University of Missouri System announced his appointment. In his first speech to students, faculty and staff, Agrawal set out a broad vision for the university’s place in the community:
Public universities were created with the goal of bringing enhanced prosperity to their region. They do this by being knowledge enterprises – they both disseminate knowledge and create new knowledge. I believe they have an unwritten but binding social contract with their communities to be instrumental and perhaps even partly accountable for the economic development of the region and the social, cultural and health well-being of the city and the region.
This is where the modern urban university can play a very significant role. In this model, the city becomes a test bed for solutions for societal issues – solutions that are based on university research and scholarship to impact the neighborhoods and communities that surround us.
For Kansas City to be great, UMKC has to be great because all great cities are anchored by a great university. I am confident that with UMKC and the city working together, UMKC will become a university recognized widely for its excellence and Kansas City will emerge as one of the top cities of the 21st century.
It us our time and our turn for “spectacular” to happen!
He told the assembly “I think of myself primarily as a faculty member,” and added “I will ensure that UMKC has a culture that is student focused.”
He’s also dedicated to his family. His mother, Raj, is 87 and lives with Agrawal and his wife. Mauli and Sue have two children – Ethan, 24, who graduated from Rice University with a degree in chemical engineering, and Serena, 21, a junior who is studying mechanical engineering at Rice.
Mauli Agrawal was born in Allahabad, India, as the younger of two siblings. His father was the first in his family to attend college and his mother was the first woman in her family to attend college. His mother eventually obtained her doctorate at a time in India when most women did not even attend college.
Agrawal grew up in a home with no television, no refrigerator and no air conditioning, which was especially evident on days when the heat climbed to 115 degrees. Wild animals were not uncommon in the neighborhood, and Agrawal often found himself chasing monkeys away from his yard or watching elephants parade down the streets. Yet, tucked away in his bedroom, his walls sported pictures and newspaper clippings of the Apollo 11 mission. Agrawal said it was this inspiration that led him on his academic path.
“It was the moonshot,” he said. “I was crazy about the Apollo 11 mission. It was that event that got me excited about technology and set me on my career.”
He graduated from one of India’s top schools, the Indian Institute of Technology, with a bachelor’s degree in technology. He started his professional career in quality control for an automobile company in India. Eventually, he decided to make his way to the U.S.
“I arrived in the U.S. with $100 and a suitcase full of clothes,” Agrawal said. “That was all I had to start living the American dream. Now I see others struggling to achieve that dream, and I feel committed to help them accomplish their goals; it is what drives me every day.”
After getting a master’s degree from Clemson University and a doctorate from Duke University, both in mechanical engineering, Agrawal’s academic career included stints as a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas at San Antonio. At UTSA, he was tapped for leadership roles, including dean of the College of Engineering and vice president for research. Under his leadership, Agrawal led the College of Engineering to a 40 percent increase in student enrollment, a 50 percent increase in faculty and a 400 percent increase in research funding.
Agrawal’s research specializes in the area of orthopedic and cardiovascular biomaterials and implants. He is a Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Additionally, he served as president of the Society for Biomaterials in 2006.
“I’m very excited to be chosen to help lead this great university. The potential for the University of Missouri-Kansas City is immense and exciting,” Agrawal said. “UMKC has all the elements necessary to make a great university. With strengths in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, business, engineering, arts and theater, the university is an exceptional anchor for economic development in the Kansas City region. I’m looking forward to working with UMKC’s faculty and staff as well as Kansas City’s civic leaders who are passionate about higher education and are constantly working to make Kansas City a great place to live, learn and work.”