Substance use and mental illness during and after pregnancy have serious impacts on the health and well-being of mothers, children, and families around Montana. Montana currently has the second highest rate of removal to foster care in the country. Out of more than 3,200 children in foster care in 2016, 64% were removed from the home for reasons related to parental substance abuse.
We first began working on this problem in 2015, when we funded hospitals in Kalispell, Missoula, and Billings that wanted to explore ways to better care for pregnant and postpartum women struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs) and to reduce the number of infants born exposed to drugs in utero. In 2018, we studied the issue in depth and found that this is a serious and growing problem in Montana, as reflected in the high rates of foster care placement and the many hospitals that report growing numbers of drug-exposed newborns.
We also found some good news: in other states, a simple system of prenatal care can improve both health and social outcomes. This system of care is made up of clinical and community teams that provide the patient with prenatal care side-by-side with behavioral health and coordinated referrals to needed social services. States that are using this approach have reduced drug exposure in utero as well as complications such as premature delivery; in turn, rates of foster care placement are often much lower as well.
Through a study of Montana’s treatment system, we also found that there are few treatment options available to pregnant women: only 2 of Montana’s 32 state-approved SUD treatment programs offer services to pregnant women.
Based on these findings we saw a huge opportunity to make progress on this difficult problem, and in early 2018, we created the Solving Perinatal Drug and Alcohol Use Initiative. As part of this initiative, we funded an additional 12 organizations to implement a standard system of care for treating pregnant women.
In November 2018, we announced a partnership with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to expand the scope and reach of this initiative: though the Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative we are helping providers around the state improve health outcomes for women, infants, and families through providing routine screening and prompt access to care for SUDs and mental illness. We changed the initiative’s name to the Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative to better capture the scope of the new partnership.
Over the next five years, the Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative aims to support at least one practice in each of the communities with hospitals that deliver babies. Grant funding will be awarded to providers who work closely with pregnant and postpartum mothers experiencing behavioral health issues.
This week, we are proud to announce that our grantee cohort for 2019 includes:
- Blackfeet Tribal Health
- Bozeman Health
- Community Hospital of Anaconda
- Livingston HealthCare
- Saint Vincent Healthcare
In April 2019, we are bringing together our entire grantee cohort to review the accomplishments from the past year and provide important resources and training for the second year of the initiative. For more information about this initiative including a full list of grantees, resources, and details on the funding opportunity, please visit our initiative page.