Soft-focus image of baby feet.

Expanded Website Will Link Moms Facing Substance Use Disorder to Resources

Impending motherhood can be hard enough for those experiencing a routine pregnancy. For women battling substance use disorder, the stakes are higher and quality information and resources can be hard to come by.

“These are women that need help,” said Joann Hoganson, director of community wellness, Kent County Health Department. “These are babies that need a healthy mom to take good care of them.”

On Monday, officials from the health department, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the BCBSM Foundation and lawmakers gathered to announce grant funding that will help West Michigan moms working through substance use disorder issues while pregnant.

Officials at press conference announcing the grant

Officials gathered on Monday, March 9 to celebrate grant funding that will support moms with substance use disorder in Kent County. Pictured left to right are: State Senator Winnie Brinks; Audrey Harvey, executive director and CEO, BCBSM Foundation; Joann Hoganson, RN, MSN, director of community wellness, Kent County Health Department; Adam London, RS, MPA, director, Kent County Health Department; Dawn Shanafelt, MPA, BSN, RN, director, Division of Maternal & Infant Health, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; and State Senator Peter MacGregor.

The $50,000 grant will enhance access to local treatment, support and recovery resources and provide education through MIRecovery.info, explained Audrey Harvey, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The existing website will be expanded to include resources and information specific to pregnant women with substance use disorder in West Michigan.

“If you are struggling and don’t know where to turn, this is a first step,” said State Senator Winnie Brinks.

The funding is provided through the “Addressing Perinatal Opioid Use Disorder” initiative, a partnership between MDHHS, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the BCBSM Foundation.

Adam London, director, Kent County Health Department, said in the decade-long opioid epidemic, some of the most vulnerable likely aren’t who you might picture. Young moms and babies are also the face of opioid and drug abuse, he said.

“When we do have challenges like this, and we need some support, we need some help, it means an awful lot to us to have organizations like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the BCBSM Foundation that can help us when we do have a good idea that they can provide some support and make those things happen,” London said.

Hoganson said the expanded website would give expectant moms a clear understanding of what to expect during and after pregnancy. Babies born addicted to opioids may experience neonatal abstinence syndrome and might have to stay in the NICU, which can cause guilt. Information about programs and services available to West Michigan moms such as medication assisted therapy, support groups and counseling, would also be on the website, helping moms trying to determine next steps and the best options. Part of the grant funding will be used on targeted, digital advertising to attract moms who need services to the website.

“We want these moms to know what to expect and to go through it with the support that they need,” Hoganson said.

Hopefully, that will lead to better outcomes for moms and their babies. Hoganson recently worked with a young mom who had lost custody of her baby as a result of substance use disorder.

“She looked at me and said, ‘I’m trying to get better because I want my baby back.’ And as I thought about those words, I just imagine that there are a lot of moms in Kent County who want to be good moms, but they also struggle with substance use,” she said. “We want to connect them with the resources and help them be the moms that they so want to be.”

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Main image photo credit: Florin Patrunjel

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