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Help for the next generation

Program helps drug-abusing pregnant women

September 6, 2012
By KURT HAUGLIE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

BARAGA - In 2007, Marquette General Health System began a program of providing buprenorphine to some patients in response to a drug-abuse trend, which seemed to be growing, according to Shawn Hatch.

"We started to see more opioid addiction," she said.

Hatch, who is director of clinical services with Behavioral Health at Marquette General Health System, said that 2007 program was for males and females, but in 2010, a program was started at MGHS to help pregnant women with an opioid addiction caused predominantly by the abuse of prescription drugs.

Article Photos

Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Shawn Hatch, director of clinical services with Behavioral Health at Marquette General Health System, gives a talk Wednesday at the Best Western Baraga Lakeside Inn about the MGHS program for treating pregnant women addicted to or abusing opioids, particularly prescription drugs. The number of pregnant women in the Upper Peninsula getting treatment rose from 24 in 2007 to 47 in 2011.

During a presentation at the Best Western Baraga Lakeside Inn Wednesday, Hatch told an audience of health care providers, home care professionals, mental health professionals, early childhood care providers and substance-abuse counselors about the MGHS program.

Hatch's presentation was sponsored by the Copper Country Great Start Collaborative in Hancock and the Western Upper Peninsula Substance Abuse Service Coordinating Agency.

Shelly Smith, CCGSC director, said the idea for the presentation by Hatch was a result of internal organizing at CCGSC.

"It came out of strategic planning we've been doing," she said.

Specifically, Smith said she heard anecdotal evidence of an increase in opioid abuse in pregnant women in Baraga County.

"They're seeing a lot of women who are using opioids," she said.

However, Smith said opioid abuse among pregnant women is not limited to Baraga County.

"I think it's a problem everywhere," she said.

Opioid is the word for both synthetic and natural opiates, such as morphine and heroin. Synthetic opioids are used in many prescription drugs, and they are addictive.

"It's so easy to get it," Smith said of the prescription drugs. "Most people aren't getting it off the street. A lot of them don't think they're abusing."

Buprenorphine is an opioid drug used used to treat opioid addiction.

Smith said she knew about the work Hatch is doing at MGHS, so she was asked to give a talk about that work, which Smith thought will help the local professionals.

"We can compare our data with state and national data," she said.

During her PowerPoint presentation, Hatch compared drug abuse generally in Michigan with the rest of the country. She broke down the rates of abuse by drug. She talked about the fact the rate of illicit-drug use is higher in pregnant 15- to 17-year-olds than in the non-pregnant group.

Hatch said many women in the MGHS buprenorphine program can be creative in finding ways to play the system, so the professionals running the program have to be strict with such things as attendance in the program, testing for illicit drugs and counting pills, which some of them sell or give away to friends and family.

After consulting with MGHS attorneys, Hatch said there is now a policy in place for discharging women in the program who are "grossly non-compliant" with program rules.

Although the number of pregnant women in the Upper Peninsula getting treatment for drug addiction has risen from 24 in 2007 to 47 in 2011, Hatch said the number of drug-addicted babies born at MGHS has risen significantly, from 14 in 2006 to 49 in 2011.

After witnessing what addicted babies go through, Hatch said she wants to do all she can to reduce that problem.

However, Hatch said there has been success with the program, also.

"We also have a lot of babies to show who are healthy," she said.

At the end of her presentation, Hatch said she was encouraged by the number of people in the audience because it shows there is an appreciation of the problem of addicted pregnant women.

"It does take a team to help these mothers and babies," she said.



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