Skip to main content

Mental Health and Prenatal Substance Exposure

by Branik Healow, MSW, LSWAIC


Studies show that over 90% of people born with prenatal substance exposure struggle with mental health disorders and 61% are expelled, suspended, or drop out of school (Source). Mental health challenges indicate a change in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior and can affect anybody at any age. Hope RISING Clinic provides mental health services to children through age 12 impacted by prenatal substance exposure.

Branik Healow, mental health therapist at Hope RISING Clinic, started working with Dylan about a year ago. In the beginning, Dylan, age nine, appeared extremely shy and disinterested. Dylan came to Hope RISING Clinic after having experienced multiple foster care placements and ongoing academic challenges. Branik and Dylan met weekly to identify their needs and work toward their treatment goals and behavioral health milestones. During the first few months, Branik noted that as a coping mechanism, Dylan would disengage and become a completely different person when visiting the clinic. Branik continued to work with Dylan, stayed calm and met them where they were at.

Branik was in contact every week with their teachers, parents, and other providers who were in community supporting Dylan. Slowly, Dylan became more engaged and curious with Branik. Dylan soon started to ask Branik for advice and would share with her why they disengaged so much. While they both shared their love for animals and cheese, they also connected about how hard it is to talk about painful feelings and experiences from their past.

Through working with Branik, Dylan made incredible progress and strides. Dylan met all their goals and as hard as it was to say goodbye when they graduated from services, Branik was proud of the progress they had made, and she knew they would continue to have all the support they needed. Today, Dylan is thriving in school. They have developed meaningful relationships in school, tried new and “scary” things, and are way more in-tune with their feelings.

Dylan’s caregiver shared, “I saw them slowly adopt strategies at the beginning and latch onto the latest work with Branik on conversations really quickly. Every new skill and every success have made them better able to progress to the next thing. Branik has been so good for Dylan, and we really are glad to have had the privilege of working with her.

Dylan is one of approximately 100 children receiving services at Hope RISING Clinic each month. Mental health and wrap around services work. Hope RISING Clinic can help.


To protect client confidentiality, the client’s name in this story has been changed.


About the author: Branik Healow, MSW, LSWAIC, is a mental health therapist at Hope RISING Clinic for Prenatal Substance Exposure. Branik grew up in the Seattle area, but loves to travel and experience new places. She is passionate about social justice and the foster care system, earning her Master’s degree in social work to continue being a voice for vulnerable populations. Branik has worked in crisis settings for children and is passionate about what Wonderland stands for. She truly cares about the families and children she works with, and always gives her best to those around her. In her free time, Branik enjoys cooking, swimming, being with friends, and spending time with her niece.


Leave a Reply