NORTH CONWAY, NH – Every Tuesday, a small and home-like building near the Memorial Hospital campus is alive with activity, as a group of young women and newborns convene for what has become a weekly “can’t miss” gathering. Here they meet with a convivial team of RNs, nurse midwives, OB/GYNs, case managers, counselors and other support service providers to learn how to not just beat their addiction, but to also thrive with their new babies and become better parents and members of society.
A New Life, Memorial’s prenatal substance abuse program, is more than a routine prenatal office visit. It’s become a family-like environment where these new mothers, and soon-to-be-moms, share not only maternity and parenting tips, but also personal stories of overcoming substance misuse disorders that threatened their lives and the health of their babies.
And now the work being done with this group has been recognized and supported by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who recently awarded Memorial Hospital an $82,100 grant. The grant will help further Memorial Hospital’s mission of providing the Mount Washington Valley accessible, comprehensive, compassionate quality healthcare by helping to sustain and expand the New Life prenatal substance abuse program.
The grant was part of a $3 million initiative funded by an anonymous gift to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to change outcomes for pregnant and newly parenting women and their babies affected by opioid and other substance use disorders.
Due to the growing number of prenatal women presenting with Substance Use Disorder, Memorial Hospital launched the program in 2016 to focus on the specific needs of these patients. A structured, comprehensive program promotes a coordinated, centralized care approach. By linking the Midwifery/Obstetric care and more involved treatment for Substance Use Disorder, the program improves the coordination of care, the patient experience, ongoing maternal success and newborn health.
The percentage of drug dependent newborns born to pregnant women with an opioid addition including heroin, at Memorial Hospital doubled in 2015 and continues to rise. In 2015 and 2016, Memorial’s rate of known opiate exposed babies was 5%. By the end of the first half of 2017, the rate has doubled to 10%.
The first year results of A New Life were impressive. 85% of mothers completed the program and graduated. 100% of babies were discharged home with their biological parents. The number of babies needing to be transferred to other hospitals has been greatly reduced by almost half – from 54% in 2015 to 28% for 2017 year to date.
Memorial Hospital President and CEO Scott McKinnon stated that the program was launched last year as an initiative of the hospital’s Women’s Health and Family Birthing Center practices. The nurse midwives, OB/GYN doctors and Birthing Center staff had seen first-hand the misery that the opioid epidemic created for vulnerable infants and their families.
“The staff was passionate in advocating for their patients and came forward to ask for our support in creating this service, which we did. It’s remarkable that a small rural hospital has been able to offer this program – Dartmouth Hitchcock is the only other New Hampshire hospital to do so. We’re proud of them and their initiative. Now with the support of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, we can continue their good work.”
The program was recently recognized by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who met with hospital administration and the New Life staff to learn more about the program and its results. It was also featured on CBS Evening News late last year as part of a report on the use of Baby Boxes to prevent SIDS, part of the weekly patient education A New Life provides to new moms.
The grant from NHCF will serve to solidify the clinical leadership necessary to sustain the program, and also to provide additional training for Memorial’s certified nurse midwives to provide the medication assisted treatment (MAT) that is a part of the substance abuse management. It will also provide funds for clinical education for staff and weekly patient education.
Marni Madnick, MD, one of the team of medical providers overseeing this program, shared, “Pregnancy often becomes a time when women struggling with addiction have new motivation to address their problems. Additionally, this population feels significant shame and lack of community. Our program is approaching these gaps by building connections - increased ongoing support from the medical care team as well as enhanced peer support.”
One mother in the program recently shared, ““This program has changed my life. It is my biggest support! The staff and other women are always there when you need anything or anyone to vent to. It offers a lot of help not only with sobriety but with so many resources to help continue our sobriety and things around the community to involve ourselves in with our children.”
- Women enrolled in the program attend weekly to receive:
- Group substance misuse counseling session with psychologist
- Social Work support services (housing, transportation)
- Prenatal care visit with Certified Nurse Midwife
- Physician visit for pharmacologic management of opioid dependence
- Healthcare coordination and healthcare follow up by RN coordinator
- Complementary Therapies to support mental health (reiki, craniosacral massage, etc.)
- Referrals to community support services
- Education on various topics related to pregnancy, well-being and infant care
For more information about A New Life, go to www.memorialhospitalnh.org/newlife.
About the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation was created in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire, and is dedicated to strengthening communities across the Granite State. The Foundation manages a growing collection of 1,700 philanthropic funds created by generous families, individuals and businesses, and awards more than $30 million in grants and scholarships every year. The Foundation invests charitable assets for today and tomorrow; works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving; supports critical work happening in New Hampshire communities and leads and collaborates on high-impact initiatives. For more information, please visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, family birthing center, sleep center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services and the Miranda Center for Diabetes. Physician practices include primary care and family medicine, women's health, orthopedics and sports medicine. The Merriman House, a 45-bed nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's and other memory disorders, is also located on the hospital campus. Together, our staff and providers are committed to meeting the health needs of the Mt. Washington Valley and surrounding communities by collaborating with community partners in the delivery of accessible, comprehensive, compassionate, and quality health care.