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Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

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12/27/2019

A Brighter Future for Moms and Babies

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital is proud to announce a $200,000 award from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to be used to improve outcomes for pregnant and newly parenting women and their babies affected by opioid and other substance use disorders.

“A bright and healthy future for babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is no longer wishful thinking, but a concrete, realistic, achievable goal,” said Katie White, BSN, RN, who oversees the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) program at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

The two-year grant was made possible by an anonymous donor who made a $3 million gift to the statewide organization, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. This innovative gift helps to provide optimal care and support for moms and their newborns; educate office practitioners; and connect pregnant women with appropriate care and services to facilitate a safe transition upon discharge.

Photo by Cheryl Senter, courtesy of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

With this new funding, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital can reach moms earlier in pregnancy. A dedicated “navigator” will help identify community resources for moms to help maintain sobriety and nurture healthy babies.

Building trust and familiarity with the health care system for moms with substance use disorders is at the core of this new initiative.

“There’s a big difference in the way substance-exposed babies are treated today,” says White: “We’ve changed our approach from a pharmacological treatment/withdrawal assessment to more a functional approach with a clear end goal — every baby needs to be able to eat, sleep, and conserve energy, and every new parent needs to be able to console their newborn before they go home. Parents are now considered the first line of treatment.”

Lindsey Wyma, MSW, who works alongside White agrees: “We are empowering parents. Any time we can be helpful to one of these moms there is a ripple effect to others around her, especially her baby, who can start a new life in a positive way.”

The opioid epidemic continues to devastate and overwhelm communities. Approximately 60 moms with substance use disorders deliver at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital each year. Wentworth-Douglass Hospital is the region’s highest volume birth center with over 1,200 births each year.

The traditional score-based protocol to treat substance-exposed infants dates back to 1975. Babies were treated with morphine and then weaned over a hospital stay that typically lasted over three weeks, often separating moms and babies.

“We now know better how to help,” says White. Today’s “best practices” include a new researched-based protocol for caring for newborns born exposed to substances called “Eat, Sleep, Console.” This functional-based tool has resulted in decreased length of stay for infants, decreased use of morphine, and increased pare­­ntal time interacting and bonding with their babies.

“Long-term success is improved when moms have the functional and emotional support they need for recovery,” says Wyma, “and it is often non-medical barriers — transportation, shelter, clothing and food — that impact a mom’s ability to maintain recovery. While we can help in identifying these services, if a mom has no transportation to get to treatment, it can jeopardize months of hard work and sobriety.”

Because the need is so clear, Wentworth-Douglass has implemented new programs to assess and identify resources to improve parenting outcomes, develop a Plan of Safe Care upon discharge, and interface with local agencies. Part of the patient’s care plan often includes referrals to community resources such as Early Head Start, SOS Recovery parenting groups, The Doorway, and the VNA.

“By working together,” says White, “we can change outcomes for pregnant and newly parenting women and their babies affected by substance use disorders. We can treat them as all patients deserve to be treated — with compassion, encouragement, and concrete tools for success.”

Photo by Cheryl Senter, courtesy of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation

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