For substance abusing mothers and their newborns, healing hinges on the understanding that addiction is a treatable disease.
To ensure that mothers and babies receive the most appropriate care, a dedicated team at community-based hospitals in New Britain and Meriden has identified ways to accurately assess pregnant women who may be at risk of delivering a drug-dependent baby; educate nurses and clinicians on addiction and how to provide the best care; and establish a therapeutic, rather than punitive, relationship between staff and mothers with known substance abuse disorders.
In just over one year, the program, which supports families at The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) and MidState Medical Center (MMC), provided life-changing care to more than 50 mother and baby couplets.
As part of the program, the hospitals made comprehensive changes to the way clinicians approach potential labor and delivery patients who may be at risk of delivering a drug-dependent newborn.
By developing relationships with local methadone clinics, at-risk pregnant patients are identified early, receive a prenatal consultation and education, and take a hospital tour. Newborns receive standardized toxicology testing, as well as treatment and observation. Both hospitals offer rooming-in programs so mothers can stay with their newborns, promoting breast feeding and skin-to-skin contact, when possible.
Engaging moms with the care of their newborn establishes bonding. Coordinated communication with the mother’s treatment center, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and baby’s pediatrician increases the chances that mother and baby will not be separated automatically. In all instances, nonjudgmental care is provided and the services are offered for free.
To bring this program to life, team members worked tirelessly during and outside of their shifts, and were not compensated beyond their standard pay. Approximately 12 people from HOCC, MMC, the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, the University of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health were actively involved in the development of this program. The program is based on expertise from nursing, neonatology, pediatrics, obstetrics, behavioral health, social services, recovery programs, and state policy.