As opiate drug abuse has become an increasing problem in many Vermont communities, two Mt. Ascutney Hospital doctors have created a project aimed at caring for mothers and infants who are addicted, or at-risk. Pediatricians Kimberly Aakre, MD and Mary Bender, MD, were recently awarded a $10,000 grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), in support of their project. The grant is part of AAP’s Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) program, which awards funding to individual pediatricians for community-based child health initiatives aimed at reaching children who may not have access to health care services in their community.
“Dr. Bender and I are working to develop a system of care and support for mothers who are in recovery from opiate addiction and their young children,” said Dr. Aakre. “Both of us have deep concerns about the rising incidence of opiate use in Vermont and the devastating effects we’ve seen on the families and children we serve.”
Dr. Bender notes that “The most important thing we can do for our young patients’ physical, emotional, and intellectual development is to support their parents’ recovery. This CATCH grant will help us connect with obstetric and perinatal care providers to identify families in stable recovery, and develop systems to treat moms with opiate addiction.”
According to The Vermont Department of Health, more than 50 Vermonters die from opioid poisoning every year; deaths from heroin doubled between 2012 to 2013. More than one quarter of the nearly 4,000 Vermonters in treatment for opioid abuse are young adults, and many of these are young mothers.
“As pediatricians, we know that a child's healthy growth and development is vitally dependent on the health and well being of the parent and caregivers,“ says Dr. Aakre. “The CATCH grant funds will support our efforts to identify the scope and needs of the population we serve, develop protocols for care, and strengthen community supports and resources for this vulnerable group.”
“Recovery is a hard journey,” says Dr. Bender,” but being a parent is enormously motivating. We’re reaching people at a very ‘teachable’ moment in their lives. We’re both excited and grateful to have this opportunity to change lives.”