Port Huron Odyssey House Expands Substance Use Treatment Services for Pregnant and Postpartum Women with Help from the BCBSM Foundation

Jake Newby

| 5 min read

A fear and a stigma exist among pregnant and postpartum women that if they acknowledge their own substance abuse issue, their baby will be taken away. The Flint Odyssey House has worked for nearly six decades to not only disprove that notion, but to provide services to at-risk mothers and mothers-to-be so they can receive treatment and start a happy, healthy family.
In recent years, the Flint Odyssey House – which responds to crises related to substance use disorder and the misuse of substances – has noticed a trend. More and more pregnant and postpartum women from the Port Huron area traveled and sought treatment at the Flint Odyssey House. That trend led to the Odyssey House’s expansion of substance use disorder treatment services that already existed in Port Huron.
“We had several residents in our Flint facility who had come from Port Huron. And they advocated for themselves, “said Kristen Young, the Odyssey House Director of Women’s Specialty and Prevention Program. “They talked about needing services in Port Huron. After care, outpatient, recovery housing – they said, ‘we need something to go back to. We need recovery to go back to in Port Huron when we return home.’”
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Foundation has supported expansion efforts by awarding the Odyssey House a $40,000 Community Health Matching grant in November of 2023.
Much of the Odyssey House’s expansion efforts since receiving the grant at the end of 2023 is revolving around laying the groundwork for success in Port Huron, a city that does not have a great foundation for the types of services they specialize in. Year one is about developing the systems and identifying the actual work that needs to be done, to ensure that Odyssey House has staff and stakeholders experienced in those specialized services.
“Right now, we’re about six months into our program,” Young said, of the two-year grant. “We’re working on establishing relationships with the hospital system, working to identify and connect with some of the stakeholders in town.”

Placing an emphasis on family-focused services: What the Odyssey House aims to accomplish in Port Huron

Since the onset of the grant, the Port Huron Odyssey House and seen two drug-free births, which occurs when the mother provided negative drug and alcohol screens prior to labor and delivery. The overarching mission of the Odyssey House locations is to help achieve as many drug-free births as possible. But Young knows this is only just a start.
“That’s not an extremely high number, however we are looking at a population that has a history of underreporting their pregnancy in the first place. One of those drug-free births – because outpatient services are mainly provided online and virtual – the resident was in their third trimester and was basically on their way for labor and delivery before they actually were able to discuss the pregnancy. It was one of those ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ things.”
These are the type of situations the Odyssey House is trying to avoid in Port Huron. Young and other staff members hope to assess risk as early into the pregnancies of their residents as possible to ensure drug-free births.
Currently, Port Huron Odyssey House offers outpatient and recovery housing. But the second year and second phase of this project will be about adding to those services. Young mentioned that Michigan has established protocols for two programs to be ushered into Port Huron: one is Enhanced Women’s Specialty.
“That is having specialty-trained coaches who work with somebody who is either currently or has had a prior in substance use treatment for alcohol or other drugs,” Young explained. "It allows for a coach to be able to work with them for up to three years after engagement. It basically assists with making sure they are either abstinent or have very low levels of use of alcohol or other drugs in those three years.”
The other program is Plans of Safe Care, which was initiated by Child Protective Services (CPS). Plans of Safe Care is a plan to address the needs of infants exposed to substances by offering services to families impacted by substance use during and following pregnancy.
“With specialized programming and support, recovery from a substance use disorder while during pregnancy or while on the postpartum journey is possible,” said Audrey Harvey, executive director and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “The Odyssey House has a track record of helping women and their families emerge healthy and whole from substance use disorders. The evidence-based programming being developed for families in Port Huron is a long time coming. We’re proud to help make the Odyssey House make a difference in those communities.”
At the end of the day, happy healthy births impacted by Odyssey House programming is what drives Young to do what she does. It always has. She’s hoping the dedicated push to expand services in Port Huron will lead to a spike in improved birthing outcomes across the St. Clair County area.
“Every time I get notified that we need to have a baby shower, that’s the exciting part,” Young said, beaming. “When somebody tells me, ‘We got a new baby girl that was born drug-free.’ That’s exciting. Knowing mom and baby are doing well, that’s why I do the work.”
Check out the BCBSM Foundation website to learn more about the Community Health Matching Grant Program, including eligibility, proposal requirements, and more.
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Photo credit: Kristen Young/Odyssey House
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