Caring for Pregnant Opioid Abusers in Vermont: A Potential Model for Non-Urban Areas

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Opioid addiction is no longer a primarily urban problem. As dependence on heroin and prescription pain relievers has become a significant issue in rural areas, the need for effective treatment of opioid-dependent pregnant women and their neonates has grown accordingly. In addition to the adverse perinatal outcomes associated with opioid addiction in pregnant women, the high costs of caring for these mothers and their babies motivate efforts to develop appropriate treatment models. We found that integration and coordination of services that promote maternal recovery and ability to parent are key requirements for treatment of opioid dependence during pregnancy. Unfortunately, lack of experience and resources makes such coordination a real challenge in rural areas. In this review, we discuss how we managed the challenges of developing a comprehensive program for treatment of opioid dependence during pregnancy. In addition, we outline our approach for facilitating the development of community-based programs to help these patients and families in rural regions of Vermont. Close relationships between our tertiary care center, local hospitals, community health care infrastructure, and legislators bolstered our efforts. In particular, appreciation for the severity and importance of the opioid-dependence problem in Vermont among health care providers and state legislators was paramount for our success in developing a state-wide treatment program. This approach can inform similar efforts in other rural regions of the United States, and has great potential to improve both access and quality of care for women struggling with opioid dependence.

Related Topics

  • Cultural Competency/Adaptations
  • Behavioral Health
  • Medications for Addiction Treatment (MAT)
  • Medical Care
  • Policy
  • Treatment Models