Maine will receive $5.3 million in federal funding over five years for a new program to help pregnant women and new mothers who have opioid use disorder.

Maine and nine other states – including New Hampshire, Maryland, West Virginia and Colorado – were selected by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create the Maternal Opioid Misuse model for Medicaid patients.

The funding will increase access to and coordinate treatment for women who have opioid use disorder and are pregnant or recently gave birth.

“This award will bolster our aggressive response to the opioid initiative under the leadership of Governor Mills,” Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said in a statement. “Ensuring the health and well-being of mothers, children and families affected by opioid use disorder is key to our success. Under this model we can target compassionate, effective support from before birth all the way through infants’ crucial first year of life.”

The number of drug-affected babies born in Maine has declined in recent years, although it’s still much higher than in the mid-2000s.

The number of drug-affected babies climbed from 165 in 2005 to a peak of 1,024 in 2016 before dropping to 952 in 2017 and 904 in 2018, the most recent year statistics were available. Maine has about 12,000 births per year, so about 7 to 8 percent – or roughly one in 12 – of all babies born in Maine per year are born drug affected.


Meanwhile, drug overdose deaths have so far peaked in 2017 at 417, declining to 354 in 2018, a 15 percent decrease. The state has not yet released final numbers for 2019.

“This represents another important part of our strategy in the Mills administration’s coordinated work to combat the opioid crisis,” Gordon Smith, Maine’s opioid response director, said in a statement.

Maine DHHS will work with six health care providers to implement the new program, including MaineHealth, MaineGeneral Medical Center, Mid Coast-Parkview Hospital, Northern Light Health, Penobscot Community Health Care and Pines Health Services. The state intends to add more sites and work with more health care providers over the next five years.

Infants exposed to opioids before birth have a greater risk of being born prematurely and with lower birth weights, DHHS said in its news release. About 4,800 Mainers have gained access to substance use treatment services since the Mills administration expanded Medicaid in January 2019.


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