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Maine program expanding to help more pregnant women, new mothers struggling with substance use

In 2022, MaineCare is expected to start covering MaineMOM program services that provide integrative care to mothers struggling with substance use.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A program in Maine that has been helping pregnant women and new mothers struggling with substance use could soon reach even more women in need. 

The MaineMOM program has been up and running since July 1, made possible with $5.3 million in federal funding and 16 locations statewide. This program follows an integrated care model by providing pregnant women and new mothers (up to one year post-birth) with prenatal and postpartum care, delivery services, wraparound services (like housing, food, and transportation) and substance use treatment in one setting. MaineMOM also includes a peer support element, so patients can connect with women in long-term recovery who may have been in similar positions previously. 

Right now, the organizations and people providing these services are doing so as partners through the state, since it's a federally-funded program. Next year, though, MaineCare is expected to start providing coverage to reach more women. Those involved in the initiative say they've seen a positive response since it launched this summer, with about 30 to 35 women enrolled now -- a number that grows almost every day.

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"Women with substance use disorders feel very stigmatized and very shamed. People judge them very strongly -- you know, 'Why can't you just stop using?'" Alane O'Connor, the medical director of MaineMOM, said. "It's a harsh environment that they find themselves in, and we know that they're physically dependent on a substance. We know that they don't want to be doing this when they're pregnant, and they really need the medication and the other supports to get well."

O'Connor said Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia lead the nation in rate of substance-exposed pregnancies. About 8% of pregnancies in Maine per year are substance-exposed, which totals about 1,000 births. Jackie Farwell, the communications director at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said that figure also includes babies born to mothers on medication-assisted treatment. 

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The ultimate goal of MaineMOM is to help get rid of barriers to recovery (like transportation and scheduling conflicts) and give women the resources they need to be successful mothers. O'Connor said the earlier women can get to them, the better -- to deliver healthier babies and establish healthier home environments.

"People have described it as sort of the thousand-pound telephone. They're afraid to make that call because it's overwhelming; it's scary; you're afraid of who's going to pick up the phone on the other end," O'Connor empathized. "I just really want women to know that we're here to support you. We're not going to judge you. We're not stigmatizing. We just want to help you and get you the care that you need."

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O'Connor said the postpartum period can be high-risk for overdoses, so MaineMOM addresses that aspect, too. If you're in need, you can find a program near you by clicking here and entering your zip code. 

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