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Lowell General Hospital to launch new program to support babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and their families

08/05/2016

Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Awards $999,032 to Support Hospital’s NAS Family Support Program 

BOSTON, MA – Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) awarded Lowell General Hospital $999,032 today to support the hospital’s initiative to improve care for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and women struggling with opioid use disorder (OUD) before, during, and after pregnancy. Lowell General Hospital’s NAS Family Support Program will strengthen and build upon a network of existing partnerships between the hospital, local physician practices, and several community organizations. The funding was awarded as part of HPC’s launch of the Health Care Innovation Investment (HCII) Program, which approved over $11 million in investments to 20 competitively selected awardees.

With this grant funding, Lowell General Hospital will develop and implement a NAS Family Support Program that will not only treat infants for NAS but will provide their mothers with medication-assisted treatment and wrap-around support to help them break the cycle of opiate use and fully re-engage in their lives, according to the team developing the program.

“With the opiate epidemic continuing to affect so many families in our region, this grant funding comes at a critical time,” says Joseph White, President of Lowell General Hospital. “Lowell General Hospital’s Maternal Child Health Division has actively built a foundational program for babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and their families and has demonstrated early success in improved care and quality outcomes for these patients over the last several years. We are extremely excited to receive this vital grant funding and look forward to working with the HPC to expand our work and improve the care for these members of our community.”

The grant comes after Lowell General Hospital was recently named a Center of Excellence in NAS education and training by the Vermont Oxford Network. To achieve Center of Excellence status, Lowell General trained 100% of its designated care team, exceeding the 85% goal, and used an online learning platform to complete 17 learning lessons to better care for these newborns.

Approximately 2,300 babies are born at Lowell General Hospital each year and the hospital has cared for 40-50 infants born with NAS in each of the past three years, according to hospital leaders. During fiscal year 2015, 45 mothers delivered infants with NAS at Lowell General Hospital.

“What will set Lowell General Hospital’s NAS Family Support Program apart will be the integration and coordination between the partnering organizations, the engagement of patients in their treatment plan, and the transformation of care for infants with NAS and mothers with OUD from uncoordinated, episodic care to a system of Complete connected care,” says Cecelia Lynch, Chief Nurse Executive and Vice President of Patient Care Services at Lowell General Hospital. “This funding will help us create a comprehensive model to identify women with OUD early in their pregnancies; to guide them in accessing MAT services; to improve hospital care of infants with NAS; and to provide an array of social services and other support to families from pregnancy through delivery, and for six months postpartum.”

“Decreasing the severity of symptoms for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome requires that mothers with OUD be identified early in their pregnancies and receive medication-assisted treatment and wrap-around social services,” says Elizabeth Lydstone, Director of Maternal Child Health at Lowell General Hospital. “A comprehensive approach to identifying and treating pregnant women with OUD will result not only in babies having less severe symptoms, but also in mothers who are physically and emotionally healthier and better able to care for themselves and their families.”

Lowell General Hospital plans to launch the new program this fall. To learn more about the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission’s Health Care Innovation Investment Program, visit www.mass.gov.