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Baystate touts rooming-in program for drug-dependent babies, mothers

  • Nancy Rines, third from left, director of women’s and infants’ services at Baystate Children’s Hospital, offers a look into the normal newborn nursery to a group of about 20 people Tuesday in Springfield. The bright lights and bustle of this nursery was contrasted to the calmer atmosphere that the Opioid-Exposed Newborn Rooming-in Program affords new mothers and their infants affected by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rachana Singh, Medical Director for the ICU Nurseries at Baystate Medical Center, talks about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome with members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission during their visit to BMC to discuss the successful NAS program on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Baystate Medical Center President Nancy Shendell-Falik discusses the Opioid-exposed Newborn Rooming-in Program with members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission during their visit to BMC on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Charlotte Boney, Pediatrician-in-Chief at Baystate Children's Hospital, meets with members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission to discuss the successful Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome program on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kathy Williamson, left, a nurse practitioner in the Wesson Women's Clinic at Baystate Medical Center, talks with about 20 people taking a tour of the facility with Rachana Singh, right, Medical Director of ICU Nurseries, on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, left, of the 10th Hampden District, listens as Stephanie Adam , Unit Manager in the Neonatal ICU at Baystate Medical Center, leads a tour for members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Stephanie Adam, second from left, Unit Manager of the Neonatal ICU at Baystate Medical Center, talks with, from left, Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Executive Director David Seltz, Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of the 10th Hampden District and Sen. James Welch of the Hampden Disrict, chair of the Senate Committee on Healthcare Financing, during their visit to BMC on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Karen Ricci, clinical research coordinator in newborn medicine at Baystate Medical Center, discusses statistics associated with the successful Opioid-Exposed Newborn Rooming-in Program during a meeting with members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission at Baystate on Tuesday in Springfield. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Emily Lajeunesse, social worker and parent educator, talks about the Opioid-Exposed Newborn Rooming-in Program with members of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission during their visit to BMC to celebrate the successful Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome program on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • This is one of the four rooms in the Opioid-exposed Newborn Rooming-in Program at Baystate Medical Center, shown on a tour celebrating the successful Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome program on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING



For the Gazette
Thursday, August 09, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — A program that keeps opioid-dependent mothers and their newborns together under special care in private rooms celebrated its successes Tuesday at Baystate Medical Center.

The Opioid-Exposed Rooming-In Program has provided newborn babies who suffer from withdrawal symptoms due to their mothers’ opioid use with high-quality care since its launch in January of 2017.

The program does not involve cutting-edge technology or revolutionary medications. It simply is based on providing mothers with a comfortable, private room to bond with their newborns around the clock until they are healthy enough to be discharged.

“Increasing focus on skin-to-skin and non-pharmacological care from the moment these babies are born has helped decrease the amount of treatment necessary,” said Karen Ricci, coordinator of the rooming-in program.

This means that the babies can be discharged in a shorter period of time. Back when babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) had to be treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the average length of their stay was 17.8 days. Now, the average stay is only 9.8 days.

“When you keep the mom and the baby together in a quiet environment with a single caregiver or low number of caregivers, they don’t need as much treatment and they don’t need to be here as long,” Ricci said.

A hospital study shows 76.3 percent of full-term NAS babies required treatment when the program began in 2017. Since the program has been running for over 18 months, only 49.5 percent require treatment, according to Ricci.

The program, made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, operates from Baystate’s Wesson Women’s Clinic, where there are four designated rooms for mothers and their babies with NAS. The rooms come equipped with a minifridge, two beds and table lamps.

“We make the rooms as homey as possible,” said Nancy Rines, director of women’s and infants’ services.

On Tuesday, officials from Baystate, the commission and local legislators gathered to celebrate the success of the program and discuss future plans.

“The innovation here is a really human one — personal compassionate care. It’s something we should be proud of,” said David Selt, the commission’s executive director. “The program is a model not only for the state, but the country.”

About 173 newborns have been scored for NAS at Baystate since the program began.

“Babies of mothers with opioid use disorder are not born addicted — they are born dependent,” said Dr. Rachana Singh, medical director of ICU nurseries.

Symptoms of this opioid dependence in newborns include poor sleep, tremors, sweating, poor feeding or excessive hunger, and low fever, according to the NAS scoring system tool used by nurses and doctors at Baystate.

If a newborn does not show improvement from the skin-to-skin bonding with the mother, morphine is administered in small doses.

When the program first began, Ricci said, the nurses were apprehensive about administering morphine to newborns. “However, as soon as the first couple babies went home with their moms, they were sold,” she said.

To give the mothers a break so they can get fresh air or take a shower, staff members like Ricci will go in and watch after the baby when they have time.

“I go in whenever I can,” Ricci said. “Cuddling a baby for an hour is not a hardship.”

The rooming-in program is a part of a larger initiative at Baystate called EMPOWER, which works to provide mothers affected by opioid use disorder with health care and social services before and after they give birth.

“Following up in that postpartum period is critical,” Ricci said. “These women are at high risk for relapse in that first year. We want to be sure that we help them in their parenting and recovery to keep them moving forward.”