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In Fight Against Opioids, New Hampshire Looks to Expand Programs Aimed at Pregnant Women

Heather Carter lives with her family in Lyme, New Hampshire. She says the Moms in Recovery program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock has allowed her to stay completely sober for the first time since she was a young teen. Photo by Britta Greene for NHPR

Heather Carter lives with her family in Lyme, New Hampshire. She says the Moms in Recovery program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock has allowed her to stay completely sober for the first time since she was a young teen. Photo by Britta Greene for NHPR

New Hampshire health officials decided to prioritize a specific demographic this year when allocating scarce federal funds toward the opioid epidemic: pregnant and newly post-partum women.

The choice reflects stark statistics both in New Hampshire and across the country.

In recent years, the number of pregnant women struggling with opioid abuse has increased significantly. With that, the number of newborns experiencing symptoms of opioid withdrawal, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), has jumped.

One of the challenges in caring for this population is geography. Standard treatment involves regular doctor visits combined with regular doses of a medication, typically Suboxone or methadone, that blocks withdrawal symptoms, reducing risk of relapse or overdose. But access to clinics that offer this treatment can be limited, particularly in more rural areas.