Women, Pregnancy, and the Opioid Epidemic in Upstate New York: A Health Care Provider Educational Approach
Special Projects Fund
September 29, 2016
Opioid use—which includes heroin and prescription drug use—is rising at a fast rate in New York State, including among pregnant women. Opiate use during pregnancy can also affect newborns, resulting in neonatal abstinence syndrome, a drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns that is also growing in incidence.
Given this trend, pregnancy may be an effective time for obstetricians and gynecologists to initiate treatment, decrease high-risk behavior, and optimize maternal and infant health. However, clinicians often lack familiarity with key guidelines related to opioid use and safety, knowledge about opioid addiction, and the necessary skills to address the unique needs of these patients. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) a grant to improve knowledge and awareness of opioid use and safety in pregnant women among obstetricians and gynecologists.
Under this grant, ACOG undertook a project to close the knowledge deficit related to opioid-addicted women by increasing awareness and education on best-practice, evidence-based guidelines for care management among providers. The project focused on women’s health care providers in rural and upstate regions of New York State. ACOG organized a multidisciplinary town hall meeting in upstate New York to gain a local perspective on the issue, as well as assembled a workgroup of experts to help develop, vet, and implement clinical education. Based on these meetings, ACOG developed and implemented hospital-based provider toolkits that include best practices on the care management of pregnant women who use opioids, targeting five upstate academic medical centers and their affiliate locations as pilot sites for training and education (see the training slides here). ACOG published a final report on the implementation process, outcomes, and lessons learned from the pilot as a guide for how to best replicate the program.