Free Cell Phones and Daily Breathalyzer Tests: Incentive For Pregnant Women to Stay Sober

| by Lina Batarags

An organization called Healthy Brains for Children has developed a new incentives program to encourage pregnant teenagers to stay sober during their pregnancies.

Former Crow Wing County educator Jody Crowe helped found the nonprofit organization after he grew tired of seeing fetal alcohol-related behavioral and learning problems in children throughout the state.

Crowe said the program was developed to stop the high amounts of “loss of potential from prenatal exposure to alcohol.”

As part of the program, pregnant teens are given free cell phones with prepaid minutes – but they are also given Breathalyzers, which they must blow into throughout the day.

The Breathalyzers come equipped with cameras, which take a photo every time the Breathalyzer is used.

As board member Anne Archibald explained, “It will take a picture while they are blowing into the Breathalyzer in order to guarantee the person who is supposed to be blowing into the device is the one doing it.”

“My Baby’s Breath” is written across the side of the Breathalyzer, serving as a constant reminder to expectant mothers of exactly what is at stake.

The program focuses on expecting moms with a history of alcohol abuse. In order to keep the cell phones and earn further incentives, the young women must blow into the Breathalyzer several times a day.

Additional incentives along the way can include gift cards, additional minutes added to their cell phones, or gifts for their baby.

However, if alcohol is detected in the pregnant woman’s breath, an alert is sent out to the parents or guardian of the teenager.

Archibald has described the new policies as proactive, saying, “I guess it’s leading edge as far as prevention, and we are doing something.”

The program has been warmly received in the local community. “Social services is on board and our sheriff here is on board, so we have a really good support group here in town,” Archibald said.

Brainerd Principal Andrea Rusk has expressed similar support, saying, “It’s a great opportunity to have action, not just information.”

She has also said that she considers this type of program important in creating a safe start for both the mother-to-be and for her baby.

“We want them to have a healthy pregnancy, so this was an opportunity for us to help out.”

Organizers are still figuring out how to find, approach, and enroll females in this program. They have made teens their priority so that teachers, social workers, and parents can all refer and support girls throughout their pregnancies.

Crowe has said that the program is such a new approach that they will be learning as they go forward.

“But even if one child over the course of the next nine months has benefited from it, we will be absolutely happy with our success,” Crowe added.


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