A New Standard of Pregnancy Care is Emerging in Montana

Currently, 11 hospitals and health centers are participating in the Meadowlark Initiative which provides pregnant women and their families with effective, supportive care for behavioral health needs.

Bozeman, Mont. (Oct 16, 2019) – The Meadowlark Initiative is bringing a new standard of pregnancy care to Montana. Currently, 11 hospitals and health centers from communities across the state have joined the initiative and are providing pregnant and postpartum women and their families with effective, supportive care for behavioral health needs like mental illness and substance use disorders. The Meadowlark Initiative will support at least one prenatal practice in each Montana community that has a hospital that delivers babies. Grant funding and technical assistance is currently available for practices in those communities that would like to participate in the initiative.

“For women affected by depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, supportive, team-based care is proven to help. The Meadowlark Initiative offers prenatal care providers a powerful new way to help the women and families they serve have a healthy baby and build a strong family.”

– Dr. Aaron Wernham, Montana Healthcare Foundation CEO

DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said this new initiative is focused on improving the lives of children and families in Montana and it is proving to be a successful public-private partnership.

“The initiative addresses a complex problem in our state, but it’s one that through thoughtful collaborations and timely access to services can really make an impactful difference. And, that’s exactly what we’re seeing in communities across the state.”

– Sheila Hogan, DPHHS director

The Meadowlark Initiative brings together clinical and community teams to help provide the right care at the right time for patients and their families; improve maternal and family outcomes; reduce newborn drug exposure, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and perinatal complications; and keep families together and children out of foster care.

The initiative does this by helping medical practices implement coordinated teams made up of an obstetric provider, behavioral health provider, and care coordinator as well as other community, peer, and social support as needed. These integrated care teams screen all patients, assess their needs and provide effective outpatient interventions, coordinate services to address social factors such as transportation and housing, and establish referral networks for women who need more care.

Grant funding is currently available and will be awarded to prenatal and postpartum care providers, with a priority on supporting at least one practice in each Montana community that has a delivering hospital. Family practitioners, obstetricians, midwives, and hospitals in those communities are encouraged to apply. The application deadline is December 31, 2019. More information can be found here.

“The Meadowlark Initiative’s model of person-centered, supportive care for pregnant women is truly making a difference in obstetrical care outcomes. With this model, we have cared for many women who have made positive life-changes. The result is that mothers and babies in Montana have a much better start in life which is good news for them and for the future of all our communities!”

– Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones, SCL Health St. James family physician-obstetrician

“Increasing communication between disciplines and the coordination of services is bridging the gap for women who suffer from addiction and mental illness. We have seen trust replace fear and more women are engaging in prenatal care because of the supportive, non-judgmental environment. We have a better understanding of addiction during pregnancy and know that these mothers are more motivated to seek help. We are making a difference one woman at a time.”

– Vicki Birkeland, SLC Health St. Vincent Healthcare nursing director, women’s services

Previously known as the Perinatal Behavioral Health Initiative, the newly named Meadowlark Initiative is a partnership between the Montana Healthcare Foundation and DPHHS. Funding for this initiative comes from a $3.2 million federal grant which DPHHS was awarded for this work in 2018 and an additional $1.2 million per year pledge from the Montana Healthcare Foundation to support the initiative through 2023.

A webinar will be held on Tuesday, November 12 at 11:00 a.m. for those interested in learning more about participating in the initiative and how to apply for funding. Participants can register here.