Supporting Moms and Babies Impacted by Opioids in Kentucky

By Bill Jones

Today prescription opioid abuse among pregnant women has reached epidemic proportions. From 1992 to 2012, expectant moms reporting prescription opioid abuse increased substantially from 2% to 28%. Here in Kentucky, we have one of the country’s highest rates of women diagnosed with opioid use disorder when giving birth. In 2014, such cases accounted for 19.3 out of every 1,000-delivery hospitalizations, well above the national average 6.5 per 1,000 for that year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The effect of this epidemic is increasingly showing up in U.S. maternity wards as the rate of babies born with the drug-withdrawal issue of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) continues to soar. From 2010 to 2016, the number of cases of NAS recorded among Kentucky’s hospitals has increased by nearly 200%, according to the Kentucky Department of Public Health.

Babies with NAS are likely to experience many health issues before and after birth, including low birthweight, birth defects, breathing and feeding problems and even seizures, with some research pointing to poorer educational outcomes and developmental issues.

A Family-Centered Approach

To help mothers and babies thrive, experts agree on what works – a family-centered approach that supports moms and babies while keeping families together. When mothers and children receive residential treatment together, the maternal bond is maintained, children thrive and mothers are more motivated to achieve long-term recovery.

But as the opioid crisis continues to take its toll, the demand for family-focused residential treatment continues to grow. With fewer than 300 facilities nationwide, there is a dire shortage of parent-child treatment facilities, particularly in rural areas like eastern Kentucky.

Support for Moms and Babies in Eastern Kentucky

That’s why at WellCare, we are partnering with Volunteers of America (VOA), a nonprofit organization founded in 1896 that provides affordable housing and other assistance services primarily to low-income people. VOA operates several treatment facilities across the Commonwealth and identified a need for residential treatment for women in eastern Kentucky, as there were no options for new and expectant mothers.

To assist VOA, WellCare of Kentucky and the WellCare Community Foundation donated $100,000 to open a new residential addiction treatment program in Manchester, Kentucky, for new and expectant moms.

With WellCare’s donation, VOA plans to purchase, renovate and expand an existing facility in Manchester to house up to 16 women and their children. VOA will also offer a transitional intensive outpatient program with subsidized housing and case management supports. The new facility is expected to open late this year.

At WellCare, our mission is to help our members live better, healthier lives. Understanding that addiction impacts the health and well-being of entire families – from irregular child care, missed doctor’s appointments, lost jobs or even homelessness – we are proud to partner with VOA to help promote better health, well-being and quality of life for families struggling with addiction and the communities in which they live.


William “Bill” Jones is the WellCare’s north division president and state president for Kentucky


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