White House Launches Treatment Program For Moms With Opioid Addiction

By Kelly Burch 10/25/18

The program will streamline care and reduce healthcare costs for mothers and children who are affected by opioid addiction. 

group of pregnant women

The Trump administration announced this week that it will begin a program to address opioid abuse among pregnant and postpartum women, in an attempt to address health complications related to addiction and reduce the number of infants born dependent on opioids. 

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the model during a conference on Tuesday. 

"The M-O-M model, for 'Maternal Opioid Misuse,' will partner with state Medicaid agencies to integrate a wide range of services for pregnant and postpartum women struggling with opioid misuse, to ensure not only their health, well-being, and recovery, but protect the health of their children as well," Azar said, according to Medpage Today. 

In a press release about the program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that it is designed to streamline care and reduce healthcare costs for mothers and children who are affected by opioid addiction. 

“Too many barriers impede the delivery of well-coordinated, high-quality care to pregnant and postpartum women struggling with opioid misuse, including lack of access to treatment and a shortage of providers in rural areas, where the opioid crisis is especially destructive,” Azar said in that release. “The MOM model will support state Medicaid agencies, front-line providers and healthcare systems to help ensure that mothers and infants afflicted by the opioid epidemic get the care they need.”

The program will be tested in up to 12 states over the next five years. As the opioid epidemic has unfolded, complications from addiction have become a leading cause of maternal death. In addition, the number of babies born dependent on opioids has increased sharply, from 1.19 cases per 1,000 hospital births in 2000, to 5.63 in 2012, according to The Washington Post. Those infants can have lifelong complications from being exposed to opioids in the womb. 

Azar said that the MOM model is the latest step that the Trump administration has taken to make real changes to how opioid addiction is addressed. 

“We believe in evidence-based treatment, we believe in a public-health approach to this epidemic, and we believe in approaching addiction as a disease, never a moral failing,” Azar said.

The health secretary added that early indications show that opioid overdose deaths seem to be plateauing this year. Although he acknowledged that too many people are still dying from opioid addiction, he said that there are signs of progress. 

"Since President Trump took office in January 2017, the number of patients receiving buprenorphine, one form of medication-assisted treatment, has increased by 21%... [and] from 2015 to 2017, we have seen a statistically significant decline in the number of Americans who misuse prescription opioids,” Azar said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.