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WellSpan expands services to expectant and new moms with opioid use disorder

July 28, 2020

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Ashley Lentz and son Xzarin

Ashley Lentz and son Xzarin

WellSpan Health is using a $400,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide support services to expectant and new mothers who are seeking help for or are in recovery from opioid use.

WellSpan Foundations Pregnancy Support Services offers coordinated, comprehensive and nonjudgmental care for women with opioid use disorder and their children. The care is available for up to nine months before delivery and 18 months after delivery.

The program offers access to medication-assisted treatment, which combines the use of medications and behavioral therapy to treat people who have substance use disorders. It also offers recovery support, prenatal and post-partum care, pediatric care and referrals to social service agencies for food, housing and transportation. To help build healthy families, the program assists moms with referrals to childcare, early intervention programs and parenting classes, as well as GED classes.

Ashley Lentz, of York, said the advocacy and support she received from the program helped her to manage the stresses of new motherhood. Lentz is on medication-assisted treatment, which has helped her to successfully remain in recovery for five years.

“I can call the program any time of the day, if something is going on, if I need to talk, if I’m frustrated,” said Lentz, who entered Foundations right after she had her baby in November 2019 at WellSpan York Hospital. “I didn’t have that in my life. They have been a huge advocate for me. It’s been amazing. Honestly, if they had not been there for me, I don’t know if I would still be sober.”

The program seeks to create healthier moms and babies. The goal for moms is to ensure they are receiving care for opioid use disorder. The goal for their babies is to ensure a healthy start, reducing or eliminating any symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of problems that occurs in newborns who have been exposed to opioids while in the womb. The overall goal for families is that they overcome barriers and are given a chance to succeed.

“We are helping support moms so they can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy birth, and we support in their sustained recovery,” said Amanda Mulenga, a registered nurse who is the coordinator of the Foundations program at WellSpan. “We work to build a trustworthy, nonjudgmental relationship with moms, so we are building resilient families.”

Lentz said the program helped her to navigate doctor’s appointments and provided donations of formula and taxi vouchers. The program even intervened when she had problems making her rent, because she was unable to work after her son’s birth.

“They went to court for me,” she said. “If they had not showed up, I would have lost my apartment. The way everything was headed, it was not going well. I was getting overwhelmed. They took a huge amount of stress off my shoulders. They let me know I’m not alone. That, in of itself, is huge.”

The grant, which began in October 2019 and runs through September 2020, will allow WellSpan to serve about 50 mothers in Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties.

To date, Foundations program’s achievements include:

  • 96 percent of moms have had a sustained recovery, with no relapses.
  • 83 percent of babies have had a shorter neonatal intensive care unit stay than the national average for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Babies in the Foundations program have an average stay of five to six days, as compared to the national average of nine to 13 days.
  • 74 percent of moms are receiving support from community resources, behavioral health and/or drug and alcohol programs.
  • 85 percent of moms work with a behavioral health therapist.

Moms are referred to the program from WellSpan emergency departments and maternity departments, social workers or other support staff for pregnant or new moms. The program also can be reached at 717-812-MOMS.

The grant was part of $3.4 million in federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration grants awarded by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, for support services to pregnant and postpartum women with opioid use disorder.

The pregnancy and post-partum support grant is part of $4.1 million in federal grants and Pennsylvania Opioid Response grants awarded to WellSpan Health since 2017. WellSpan also has received grants to support medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorder across Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. The grants support increased access to treatment and recovery support for those patients.