PROVIDENCE, RI - Following the release earlier this week of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing a 61 percent decrease in post-incarceration overdose deaths, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced a new effort to improve and expand support for new parents in recovery and infants born with opioid dependence. The National Governors Association selected Rhode Island as one of five 'learning lab' states to help develop a strategic action plan to reduce neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), also known as neonatal withdrawal.
"Every baby deserves a healthy start to life," Governor Raimondo said. "As we work to prevent overdoses and save lives, we must be just as committed to providing infants, mothers, and families with the care and support they need amid this addiction crisis. We already have many innovative models in place when it comes to neonatal abstinence syndrome. We have an opportunity to build on this foundation and make Rhode Island the healthiest state in the nation for newborns."
From 2005 to 2016, the rate of infants in Rhode Island born with NAS doubled. The National Governors Association 'learning lab' initiative will allow Rhode Island to learn from efforts successfully implemented in Ohio. The Rhode Island Task Force to Support Pregnant and Parenting Families with Substance-Exposed Newborns (SEN Task Force) will oversee and coordinate Rhode Island's participation in the National Governors Association program.
"We must remain vigilant and continue to work together to tackle this epidemic, address its many ripple effects, and support our families," said Health & Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane. "The SEN Taskforce is a great example of how we're breaking down silos in Rhode Island and working across disciplines and sectors to help the families and children at the center of this crisis. Through our partnership with the National Governors Association, we will take yet another important step forward as a state to ensure our kids get the start they need to be successful. I look forward to the learning and action that will result from this collaboration."
The SEN Task Force is comprised of medical professionals, substance use treatment providers, peer recovery coaches, early intervention/family home visiting professionals, educators and representatives from the key Health Cabinet agencies.
During the press conference at the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), Governor Raimondo also highlighted several efforts already underway to address neonatal withdrawal.
• The Women & Infant Hospital's Family Care Follow-up Clinic, which offers support services for families and children
• The Project Dove partnership between RIDOH, Boston Medical Center, and Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School, which strives to improve maternal and neonatal health with safer opioid prescribing
• The Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force's work to create a cohort of peer recovery coaches who receive training to work with pregnant women and parents. These people, known as Pregnant and Parenting Recovery Coaches, assist parents and families as they navigate both recovery supports and early childhood supports.
"We are very pleased and excited to be able to provide these much-needed services to this vulnerable and growing patient population," said Barry Lester, PhD, who oversees the Women & Infants program at the Brown Center. "We firmly believe that these services will prevent or ameliorate the future suffering of these children as well as reduce the financial burden on Rhode Island."
Governor Raimondo established the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force in 2015. The state's action plan has put an emphasis on treatment and recovery and helped contribute to a modest decline in overdose-related deaths in 2017 compared to data from 2016. Governor Raimondo has been a leading advocate for treatment and recovery. Last month, in her State of the State address, the Governor announced new funding for job training and apprenticeship programs for Rhode Islanders in recovery.