Program addresses opioid addiction

Life & Health

Some hospitals are changing the way they treat opioid use disorder for expectant mothers battling addiction.

The moment Courtney Saylor realized she was pregnant, her life changed. At the time, she was addicted to heroin, which put her health and her baby at risk.

She says, “It had become such a way of life that I couldn’t even get out of bed or do my daily activities of life without it in my system.”

That’s when she enrolled herself in the GRACE Program at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. Many hospitals provide medication-based treatment, the GRACE Program provides participants an extra layer of accountability by assigning them a nurse and a social worker and connecting them with outside resources.

Kiona Hayes is the GRACE Program case manager. She says, “We’re finally understanding that addiction is a disease of the brain, and being able to relate that to actual disease, makes it easier for us to understand how to treat.”

Now, one year after launch, Woman’s Hospital says they’re seeing results. While untreated substance use in pregnancy can lead to preterm birth and low birthweight, 93 percent of infants in the GRACE Program were born at term, and they were born almost three-quarters of a pound heavier than babies of mothers with opioid use disorder who didn’t participate.

Hayes adds, “I mean that’s why we do this.”

Courtney stuck to the program without relapse and welcomed a perfectly healthy daughter born on the Fourth of July.

Her daughter gave her a reason for recovery. She says the GRACE Program showed her the way.

The GRACE Program is one of a few of its kind in the United States.

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