More than 75 mothers have received support to combat their drug addiction during their pregnancy in the first year for the Drug-Free Mother Baby Greenbrier Valley program at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center (GVMC). 

The three-year program and the program case manager are made possible through grants from the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership, the Claude Benedum Worthington Foundation and the West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health.

Beginning in November 2012, case manager Tameran Asbury, a master’s level clinician, a licensed clinical social worker and a substance abuse professional, began seeing all incoming obstetrics patients in the Greenbrier Physicians Clinic. At their first prenatal appointment, mothers are screened for current or past substance abuse and meet with the case manager.

If positive for substance abuse or screened as at risk, the mother is offered a brief intervention and assistance in reducing and eliminating drugs before her baby is born. Mothers with addictions work with the case manager throughout their pregnancy on an intensive outpatient basis and, if necessary, they are referred to inpatient treatment facilities.

Tameran also ensures that all mothers are connected with services and resources that are available to help them meet the basic needs of their babies and themselves.

Asbury states, “Maternal drug abuse, often related to underlying pain issues, is a threat to the unborn child. One of the goals of the Drug-Free Mother Baby Greenbrier Valley program is to help mothers understand how their abuse not only affects them, but also affects others around them. We want them to be able to realize that they CAN control their substance use.“

The idea for the Drug-Free Mother Baby program began when the GVMC nursery identified that nearly 19 percent of the babies had been born with one or more drugs in their system. Over the past year, GVMC has seen the number of positive drug-tested newborns cut in half, with an average of 8 percent to 10 percent of babies exposed to drugs at delivery.

The program’s efforts have proved successful — essentially eliminating incidental drug use in pregnancy such as women taking prescription pain meds or occasionally smoking marijuana. 

Drug use continues in those with an addiction, but as of March 1, 68 percent of those with positive prenatal drug screens have negative drug screens by delivery. Another 67 percent of those who were positive prenatally were negative for drugs at their postpartum checkup four to six weeks after the baby’s birth.

The Drug-Free Mother Baby program has reduced Child Protective Services referrals by 8 percent. Legislation mandates that any baby who is positive for drugs at delivery is referred to Child Protective Services whether they require treatment for addiction or not. Drug-Free Mother Baby works collaboratively with local Child Protective Services as part of the safety plan given to each participating family.

Mothers work with the case manager in intensive outpatient therapy or, if needed, are referred to detox and inpatient treatment first. Participation can help mothers keep or reclaim custody of their children and negative drug screens can earn positive incentives such as cribs and car seats.

Babies born to drug-using mothers are at high risk for potentially fatal conditions, including withdrawal, shaken baby syndrome and SIDS. Observation is critical for up to five days after birth when the infant is most likely to show symptoms. Mothers in the program are taught symptoms of withdrawal that require immediate help and how to care for their often irritable infants using special soothing measures.

Above all, teamwork among all health care providers has been key to the success of this important program. The seamless integration of counseling and monitoring services would not be possible without the support and involvement of the physician and nursing staff from both Greenbrier Valley Medical Center and Greenbrier Physicians.

“All babies deserve a start in life that is drug-free and I will do all that I can to make sure this happens,” said Dr. Coy Flowers, an OB/GYN leader in fighting drug addiction during pregnancy.

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