AP NEWS

War On Opioids Extends To Expectant Moms

May 5, 2019

Last year, Maternal and Family Health Services celebrated 45 years of its maternity program, which still delivers babies through its Healthy Beginnings Plus program at our agency’s Circle of Care site in Scranton and Moses Taylor Hospital. Of the newborns delivered at Moses Taylor last year, 93% were considered high-risk. With this significantly growing percentage of high-risk deliveries, our organization could not ignore the increasing number of pregnant women with opioid use disorder in our programs and our communities, particularly in Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Luzerne counties. The most recent data for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties reported that 150 newborns with Medicaid coverage were born dependent on drugs, which is referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome. Since that 2016 report, we have seen addicted mothers in our programs triple in numbers. We recognize addiction as a disease that demands a comprehensive, compassionate approach to support, treatment and recovery. This means serving mothers and their children within our programs and collaborating with partners to coordinate services for the mother, her baby and her family. The collective impact in addressing such serious issues collaboratively is an important goal. We strive to nurture a collective culture so that nonprofits, private and public funders collaborate to best serve the needs of the community. Our primary goals are to ensure that women with opioid disorder have access to medically assisted treatment and related addiction services, and to ensure that services are coordinated across the system of prevention, intervention and treatment. We have embarked on initiatives to address this very serious national health epidemic. One such initiative, Healthy MOMS — Healthy Maternal Opioid Medical Support — a collaborative effort among seven regional organizations and government agencies, offers a comprehensive approach to provide care and treatment to new and pregnant moms with opioid disorder in Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties. The rate of hospitalized infants born dependent on drugs in fiscal 2016 and 2017 in the two counties was nearly twice the national average. Healthy MOMS embraces a nonjudgmental and community-based approach to care and connects pregnant women struggling with opioid disorder with a network of providers offering services from prenatal and postpartum care to addiction treatment and other assistance. The group’s vision was to develop one coordinated care plan for opioid-addicted women. The intended impact is a “no wrong door” approach to care. Maternal and Family Health Services provides prenatal, labor and delivery, gynecological care, nutrition and family support through home visits by nurses in our Nurse-Family Partnership program. Women who participate in Healthy MOMS receive support throughout their pregnancy, at the hospital and after giving birth. This support can also include assistance with housing, child care, transportation, medically assisted treatment, substance abuse counseling, case management, mental health counseling and medical care for moms and infants. Since the Healthy MOMS program began in the fall of 2018, 40 women have enrolled in the program. In another initiative at our Circle of Care site in Scranton, Maternal and Family Health Services is a member of a behavioral health care model with five partners that is facilitated by Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. As a result of a grant from the Highmark Foundation, we added a licensed clinical social worker who performs substance abuse and depression screenings for all of our family planning clients in Lackawanna County. We hope to replicate these evidenced-based screenings in other family planning centers. We recently launched a school-based behavioral health project in Lackawanna County, spearheaded by a social worker who screens middle school students and provides direct referrals for behavioral health, substance abuse or reproductive health services. Looking ahead, we have partnered in Geisinger Wyoming Valley’s forthcoming Free 2B MOM project, in which registered nurses from our agency will provide home visits to recovering pregnant women. In the final analysis, the opioid epidemic has hit our region particularly hard and it often affects those most vulnerable, especially young women, infants and families. But many like-minded organizations are contributing and collaborating to ensure that the impact of our efforts makes a difference in this battle.