Greenbrier Valley program improves health outcomes for moms, babies

Dr. Coy A. Flowers, OB/GYN at Greenbrier Physicians and Medical Director of Drug Free Moms and Babies. (Chris Jackson/The Register-Herald)

Now in its seventh year, the Drug Free Moms and Babies program in Greenbrier Valley has worked to improve health outcomes for pregnant women with substance use disorders and their babies. 

Dr. Coy A. Flowers, OB/GYN at Greenbrier Physicians and Medical Director of Drug Free Moms and Babies, said 19 percent of the 564 babies born in the Greenbrier Valley in 2009 had one or more drugs in their system.

“But over the last six years," said Flowers, who has been involved with the program since its inception, "we’ve been able to reduce that number to 5 percent of 437 deliveries in 2018 testing positive for illicit use.

"That’s incredible.”

According to the release, the Drug Free Moms and Babies Program operates in coordination with the OB/GYN department at Greenbrier Physicians, LLC, and collaborates closely with the OB department at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center.

The primary goal is to support mom and baby by providing prevention, early intervention, education, addiction treatment and recovery support services.

“The program is very important and ultimately helped get me one step closer to where I needed to be," said one of the mothers in the program, who was only identified by her first name, Alisha.

Alisha specifically credited Tameran Asbury, program coordinator and care manager, for her success. 

"Without Tameran or her guidance, I may not have the life I have today, so to say I am thankful for her and the program is an understatement.”

As a master’s level clinician, licensed social worker, and substance abuse professional, Asbury meets with mothers at their first prenatal visit to complete a thorough clinical intake, including screening for current/past substance abuse, as well as other psychosocial issues.

All obstetrics patients are given a urine drug screen at their first prenatal appointment, and then randomly throughout their pregnancy and postpartum.

"If positive for substance abuse, the mother is offered a variety of supports and services to assist her in reducing and/or eliminating illicit drugs before her baby is born," the release said. "Women are referred to inpatient facilities if a higher level of treatment is needed."

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is currently the standard of care for pregnant mothers. While MAT is the safest and most effective treatment for women and their infants, it still carries the risk for the infant to develop neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

"It is important to understand that NAS is treatable and that infants are not born addicted," Asbury said. "The accurate terminology for these babies is that they are born dependent or in withdrawal."

After delivery, mothers who are stable in treatment are encouraged to breastfeed their infants, the release said.

“Many think that it must be that the infant is getting some of mom’s medication through her milk, when, in actuality, very little of the treatment medications go into mom’s breast milk and therefore into baby," said Molly McMillion, a Registered Nurse and lactation consultant who works closely with the Greenbrier Valley program. 

McMillion, who is also the director of the WV Breastfeeding Alliance, said the act of breastfeeding itself can calm a baby's symptoms of withdrawal. 

The program educates mothers during pregnancy about possible withdrawal symptoms, how to handle them and what to expect in general. It also connects them with other supports, services and resources in the community to help them meet their needs and the needs of their family.

"For women with substance use disorders, pregnancy is perhaps one of the only times she receives ongoing medical care," the release said. "The increased motivation for improved health that often comes with pregnancy makes the prenatal and postpartum periods ideal for addressing substance use. Drug Free Moms and Babies helps mom, baby, and the whole family have a better, safer, and overall healthier lifestyle."

The Drug Free Moms and Babies program is supported through funding from West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, the WV Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, as well as an increasing number of local organizations and churches.

The release said Drug Free Moms and Babies has been so successful that it now serves as a best practice model of care for 11 additional programs around the state.

For more information, call 304-647-4411.   

— Email: wholdren@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren

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