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Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) announced it awarded more than $3.6 million in competitive grants to seven organizations working to bolster support for individuals experiencing substance use disorder (SUD) during pregnancy and postpartum. Five of the recipients also will use the funds to address the intersection of SUD and intimate partner violence (IPV). This work builds on the HHS overdose prevention strategy and will advance the President’s unity agenda and the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis released earlier this year to improve maternal health and advance health equity.

“We at HHS are affirming our commitment to helping people obtain long term recovery,” said ADM Rachel L. Levine, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health. “These grants promote and support evidence-based treatment and recovery practices – a key pillar of National Recovery Month – and help to build the full continuum of support we need to fully and finally integrate behavioral health into health care.”

More than 20 million Americans are in recovery or have recovered from substance use disorder, a condition characterized by the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causing clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and difficulty meeting major responsibilities at work, school, or home (SAMHSA, 2022). Of note, opioid use disorder (OUD) among U.S. women delivering at a hospital quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, according to a multi-state CDC analysis issued in 2018, and drug-overdose deaths made up nearly 10% of all pregnancy-associated mortality in 2016 in the US (Bryan, 2020). And more recent research has shown that overdose death rates are higher for recently pregnant women than for the total female population of childbearing age (Howard, 2021)

In addition, the association between IPV and SUD is well established, yet health care provider training to identify, treat, and prevent their co-occurrence in pregnant and postpartum women is lacking. IPV is most common among women of reproductive age and, as cited by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, approximately 324,000 pregnant women are abused each year in the United States.

The United States' maternal mortality rate is the highest of any developed nation in the world and more than double the rate of peer countries. To address the maternal mortality crisis and improve health outcomes among those struggling with SUD use disorder, the following organizations received grant awards across two grant programs:

The Reducing Maternal Deaths Due to Substance Use Disorder grant program aims to strengthen perinatal and postnatal support structures for patients with SUD and reduce deaths during the perinatal and postpartum periods. Recipients are expected to:

  • Partner with hospital and community-based organizations to implement evidence-based interventions that strengthen perinatal and postnatal support structures for patients with SUDs;
  • Create a technologically innovative education and outreach product to provide support accessible to perinatal and postpartum patients with SUDs at home, and on the go, to reduce triggers, decrease stress, and increase feelings of support, thereby lowering the chance of a return to drug use or overdose. This product should include education on the biological, emotional, and psychosocial milestones and struggles at each stage during pregnancy and the first 12 months following birth; and 
  • Improve health outcomes and reducing deaths among perinatal and postpartum patients associated with SUD.

Recipient

State

Award Amount

Central Jersey Behavioral Health Associates, Inc.

New Jersey

$300,000

City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

Pennsylvania

$300,000

The Violence Against Women and Substance Use Prevention Initiative will train SUD providers in IPV and address the intersection of IPV and SUD during the pregnancy and postpartum period. This initiative will involve a collaboration between OWH and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Family Violence Prevention and Services Program. Recipients are expected to develop a statewide pilot project that includes partnerships with domestic and sexual violence organizations at the state and local level, and that will:

  • Incentivize SUD providers treating pregnant and postpartum women to be trained on identifying and addressing IPV;
  • Train SUD treatment providers to address IPV with patients and train IPV staff on SUD;
  • Identify, utilize, and disseminate best practices;
  • Integrate IPV and SUD protocols into medical practice;
  • Integrate perinatal and postpartum programs into existing substance use programs; and
  • Implement a process and outcomes evaluation to demonstrate whether there was an improvement in IPV-SUD health outcomes in the pregnant and postpartum period.

Recipient

State

Award Amount

Domestic Violence Action Center

Hawaii

$500,000

Hektoen Institute for Medical Research

Illinois

 $675,000

Texas A&M Health Science Center

Texas

$549,900

University of Mississippi Medical Center

Mississippi

  $674,578

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia

 $651,924

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services



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