Allegheny Health Network launches one-stop shop for moms-to-be with addiction
November 22, 2016 12:15 AM
Perinatal Hope uses the CenteringPregnancy model, so far used in a small number of clinics in Pittsburgh, to build a medical home for moms-to-be.
By Jill Daly / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A pregnant woman who is addicted to drugs may already know her drug use is endangering her unborn child but may not know where to turn for help.
For these women, Allegheny Health Network has begun a new program, called Perinatal Hope, that pulls together group prenatal care and support, drug and alcohol counseling and addiction recovery assistance in one clinic visit.
“We know that addiction is a devastating disease. It affects not just patients. It affects their family; it affects their unborn children, their spouses and their family members,” said Deborah McDonald, director of women's health programs in the hospital network.
The opioid epidemic in the region was in full force here two years ago when Ms. McDonald and Ashley Schultz, maternal addiction program coordinator, began designing the comprehensive treatment for mothers and their babies. Babies born addicted have extended stays in hospital neonatal intensive care units, where their withdrawal is controlled with drugs and close observation. But some effects can be long-lasting.
“When you’re looking at a woman when she’s pregnant, she’s motivated to make changes in her life. It’s when it’s best to help them, reach out to them,” Ms. McDonald said.
Perinatal Hope uses the CenteringPregnancy model, so far used in a small number of clinics in Pittsburgh, to build a medical home for moms-to-be. They come to their obstetrician appointments and gather together in one room for educational and support activities. They hear about breastfeeding, infant safety and family planning. Good prenatal care can help prevent babies from being born too soon, which can come with developmental problems.
At West Penn Hospital, the program partners with Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery, or POWER, to help coordinate services. To start, West Penn can handle 45 women in the program, Ms. McDonald said. It will include a 1½-hour session of CenteringPregnancy activity, followed by lunch or dinner, then a session of drug and alcohol therapy.
Funding from the March of Dimes, the Highmark Foundation and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh pays for educational materials and a traveling team of nurse practitioner and social worker (Ms. Schultz), who will take the Perinatal Hope program to women who have doctors at Jefferson Hospital and, in the future, Forbes in Monroeville and the Federal North offices on the North Side.
After childbirth, the mothers return every two weeks to see their health care provider and will receive follow-up phone calls. Ms. McDonald said the new program will help women locate a supportive health care provider after the six-week birth follow-up appointment.
“We will help guide them in their contraception decision, getting their medication-assisted treatment … or if they want to detox, we help them get into right place.”
Perinatal Hope partners with The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh’s Fresh Start program, for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. That program offers three years of coordinated care.
“There’s a lot of wonderful agencies out there that help women,” Ms. McDonald said. “If we can help do the navigation for them, that’s what we’ll do.”
To enroll in Perinatal Hope or for more information, people can call 412-578-5559.
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