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Behavioral Healthcare Is an Important Part of Effective Care for Addicted Mothers

Breaking free from opioid addiction is a difficult and multifaceted challenge. For many women who are addicted, the process is made even more complex by pregnancy. Often these women are unable to tap into any kind of healthcare, whether for substance abuse treatment or prenatal treatment. The result is that they pursue neither, endangering two lives. That’s where the Giving Respect and Compassion to Expecting Moms, or G.R.A.C.E., program steps in. Created by the team at Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque, NM, G.R.A.C.E. has been ground-breaking for a highly under-served population, says Dr. Abraham Lichtmacher, Chief of Women’s Services, who developed the program’s clinical protocols and support systems.

Targeting Behavioral Health as an Issue

Much of the training to support this population, as well as assessment of other potential program components, will revolve around the behavioral health component of the overall treatment regimen.

“We offer social-service support alongside behavioral health support,” explains Kelly Wascher, RN, MS, the Manager of Clinical Services for the G.R.A.C.E. program. “Unfortunately, many of these patients, probably more than 65 or 70 percent, have some behavioral-health issue, whether it’s because of abuse that they’ve suffered earlier in their life or a trauma which may have led into this addiction.”

“It is an unfortunate reality of life in Albuquerque and New Mexico in general, and quite frankly to some degree nationally, that there is a shortage of behavioral health treatment options for patients,” Dr. Lichtmacher adds. “There are just not enough psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers to be able to care for the entire population. For our program, as we identify these gaps in care, we’re able to recruit individuals to fill those roles. As our needs increase, we’re adding more individuals to our roster.”

That group of professionals, ranging from physicians and nurses to certified midwives and behavioral health providers, have quickly become acclimated to the unique needs of this patient base, says Wascher. “What has been fascinating to watch is the comfort level of the staff,” she notes. “Now we have G.R.A.C.E. champions who have been identified in the outpatient sector, as well as on labor and delivery teams, in our NICU, and in other parts of the organization. These individuals help promote the program, assisting new staff who are coming on board and making sure they’re well educated and knowledgeable about the program.”

This blog post is an excerpt from the HealthStream article, SAVING G.R.A.C.E. - Program engages with at-risk mothers through prenatal care, delivery, and beyond. The article also includes:

  • A Multifaceted Program with One Overarching Goal
  • Targeting Behavioral Health as an Issue
  • Caring for Addicts Without a Withdrawal Program
  • Assessing Outcomes Key to Driving Forward Progress

Clinical development training, like that necessary for treating those affected by opioid addiction, is just one of the healthcare workforce development solutions offered by HealthStream for providers and employees. Explore HealthStream Clinical Development Solutions.


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