New initiative will address service gap for opioid-dependent mothers through wraparound services, human-centered design

  • June 27, 2018

A new initiative will help address a gap in care for Indiana's rising number of postpartum mothers dependent on opioids and their babies through a patient-centric approach.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation awarded Indiana University School of Medicine $844,065 to support CARE Plus, which will leverage the window after opioid-dependent mothers give birth – a time of high motivation – to encourage them to start the recovery process. The goal is to help more opioid-dependent mothers get access to treatment, and to improve long-term health outcomes for those mothers and their infants.

To help overcome the challenges of reaching this vulnerable population, IU School of Medicine is working with IDEO, a global design firm that has long been at the forefront of creating change through design. The human-centered design approach integrates feedback from the population being served to inform improvements and adjustments—increasing both the reach and effectiveness of the program.

CARE Plus will wrap the mothers and infants in a full suite of supports to overcome the myriad barriers to treatment for this underserved population. These services include providing a connection to medication-assisted treatment and vital social services, personalized coaching and supportive text messaging, and therapy designed to develop strong emotional bonds between children and mothers.

 “CARE Plus fuels two critical components of battling the opioid epidemic – ensuring that postpartum mothers in need of treatment don’t fall through the cracks, and putting their babies on a path to good health,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “The program offers a comprehensive range of supports and is designed in collaboration with patients – elements that we hope will enable success.”

In 2014, across the state 657 infants were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which results from mothers’ use of opioids. When these mothers are discharged without support, they face many obstacles to treatment, including the stresses of caring for a newborn, stigma about treatment, and lack of insurance.

All opioid-dependent mothers who deliver babies at IU Health Methodist Hospital will be offered CARE Plus.

“The opioid crisis is having a devastating impact on Hoosier families,” said Dr. Anantha Shekhar, executive associate dean for research affairs at IU School of Medicine. “Our faculty will put in place a program that empowers mothers to seek treatment, provides babies who are born dependent on opioids the opportunity to lead healthy lives, and prevents an inter-generational epidemic.”

CARE Plus’ approach also has potential to create a model for serving postpartum mothers with opioid dependency and their babies across the state. As part of its grant, IU School of Medicine will be charged with developing a toolkit to be shared with other health systems and nonprofits so that the program can be replicated, multiplying the potential for sweeping impact.

The element of human-centered design also will facilitate a better understanding of how to engage with opioid-dependent mothers. This will inform future substance use disorder treatment efforts, in Indiana and nationally.

"We are humbled to be working on the CARE Plus initiative and collaborating with IU School of Medicine to leverage human-centered design in addressing one of our country's most urgent public health issues," said Ann Kim, director of IDEO Cambridge's health & well-being portfolio. "This is an important endeavor that requires humanity and sensitivity to the stigma of opioid dependency while designing for all stakeholders, from new mothers to the teams that care for them."

The program is also receiving support from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and through the Indiana University Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenges initiative, the nation's largest and most comprehensive university-led response to the opioid addiction crisis.

Read a Q&A about the program and the services it will provide.

For more information, visit the CARE Plus section of the IU School of Medicine website.

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ABOUT THE RICHARD M. FAIRBANKS FOUNDATION

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation strives to advance the vitality of Indianapolis and the well-being of its people by addressing the city’s most significant challenges and opportunities. The Foundation is focused on three issue-areas: education, tobacco and opioid addiction, and the life-sciences. To advance its work, the Foundation implements a three-pronged approach: strategic grantmaking, evidence-based advocacy, and cross-sector collaborations and convenings. Learn more at RMFF.org.

ABOUT INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Indiana University School of Medicine is one of the nation's premier medical schools and is a leader and innovator in medical education, research and clinical care. The country's largest medical school, IU School of Medicine educates more than 1,600 medical and graduate degree students on nine campuses in Indiana, and its faculty holds more than $300 million in research grants and contracts, to advance the School's missions and promote life sciences. For more information, please visit medicine.iu.edu.

Carolina Otero is a community health worker for the CARE Plus program and will connect opioid-dependent mothers and their babies with resources such as food, housing, transportation and drug treatment.

Carolina Otero is a community health worker for the CARE Plus program and will connect opioid-dependent mothers and their babies with resources such as food, housing, transportation and drug treatment.

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Emily McKnight