16:24 PM

Opioid Crisis’ Most Vulnerable Victims

You’ve probably heard of fetal alcohol syndrome. But what about opioid neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

“We are seeing a rising incidence of this syndrome in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” says Amanda Flicker, MD, LVHN Chief of Medical Obstetrics. NAS occurs when a pregnant woman uses opioids during pregnancy, and then her baby is born dependent and withdraws from the substance after birth. LVHN obstetricians and pediatricians worked together to create an intervention that could help to improve this situation and provide support for the baby.

Connecting care

Enter Connections Clinic, developed by a group including pediatrician Elaine Donoghue, MD, with the Children’s Clinic at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)– 17th Street. Connections Clinic connects prenatal and postnatal care for moms with care for an entire family, including newborns – especially if the family has a history of opioid abuse. It is designed to integrate obstetrics, pediatrics, behavioral and mental health services, and other social resources.

Advocating for the addicted

Connections Clinic begins its work at a pregnant woman’s first obstetrics appointment when she is asked a series of questions. “These questions are related to any personal or family history of substance abuse,” says Kay Young, RN, with LVHN Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Based on questionnaire responses, a pregnant woman might be referred to licensed social worker Stacy Spadt, Connections Clinic program coordinator, and to obstetrician-gynecologist Courtney Boyle, DO, with LVPG Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Connections near you

Connections Clinic is a mobile resource, “meeting the needs of patients in many communities across the Lehigh Valley,” explains Flicker. LVPG obstetricians in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties are working with the Connections Clinic team. The pediatric component is coordinated through Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital’s Child Advocacy Center.

Thanks to a grant from the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation that provides $100,000 over five years, “we can help supplement the mental health component of this program,” Donoghue says. In addition, the grant will help educate health care providers to spot and treat mothers and babies affected by opioids.

Do you or someone you know need addiction support? Call 888-402-LVHN to be connected with the Connections Clinic.