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New Indiana program addresses maternal opioid crisis

May 1, 2018

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb joined state health officials Monday in announcing a new program that targets opioid addiction among mothers and newborns.

The program at Community Hospital East in Indianapolis will have nearly $600,000 state grant money in place to curb the number of female addicts, whose babies often are addicted to drugs.

Amid the national opioid crisis, where the U.S. saw a 300 percent increase in newborns’ drug addiction from 1999 to 2013, Indiana has had a few pilot programs to identify and treat pregnant mothers and newborns at hospitals. The new project is built on the existing program at Community Hospital East to provide more resources and set an example to further combat the problem, the governor’s office said.

“We are going to be assisting the Community Health Network and making sure that mothers and their babies ... are getting the care needed so that we’re able to bend that trajectory downward.”

Last year, legislation addressing maternal opioid use disorder created the grant from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

However, both Holcomb and the program’s practitioner acknowledge the amount of money is not enough to address the issue.

“We are hoping to just make as much of an impact as possible,” said Anthony Sanders, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Community Hospital East.

Holcomb said his administration will try to expand the program across Indiana and have more money allocated when a new state budget is developed next year by the Legislature.

Holcomb administration drug czar Jim McClelland said at Monday’s news conference that they will be looking for more money given that the past program at the hospital is working.

Project leaders said that the new program will not only offer medication treatments but also provide therapies and specialty consultation such as family support for all expectant mothers and newborns with drug addiction because the environment triggers many of the relapsing cases.

“If I treat them with medication but they still have to go to an abandoned house in order to sleep,” said Sanders, “they’re not going to be any better.”

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