Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Jeremy Phillips, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Wade, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elise Reed, Ed.D.


While each state has varying substance abuse laws and resources for those seeking treatment, many states have regulations that criminally charge expectant mothers seeking substance abuse treatment. Restrictive policies like these encourage these women to conceal their addiction to avoid criminal retaliation and stigmatization. These effects reverberate through communities plagued with poverty, forcing these women to choose between being clean and sober or protecting their children and freedom. Thus, this dissertation examined the adverse effects that strict substance abuse policies have on expectant mothers and suggest that more people in this position would seek treatment if these policies were less restrictive. This dissertation also assessed whether these policies are as effective as believed and how they currently deter a population in need by ignoring the mental health needs of drug-addicted parents. A mixed-methods approach analyzed substance abuse and mental health changes in maternal substance abusers due to specific laws. Qualitative data research included semi-structured telephone interviews from the questions outlined in Appendix A using audio communication. This study’s quantitative data consisted of using the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and information gathered from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).