The Maryland Department of Health has received $3.6 million in federal grants to fund a new program designed to address the use of opioids during pregnancy. The new initiative, dubbed the Maternal Opioid Misuse (MOM) model, was announced by the agency on Monday.

“The Maryland Department of Health remains committed to ending the opioid crisis, and the MOM model is one very specific but critical approach,” said department Secretary Robert R. Neall in a press release. “By targeting these resources and continuing to align efforts — from the federal level to our local partners — we will increase support for women and families in seeking treatment and finding success in recovery.”

The new program will focus on improving substance abuse treatment for pregnant and postpartum Medicaid patients by providing them with additional resources both during and after their pregnancies. Maryland is one of 10 states to secure funding for the initiative and will receive $3.6 million over the next five years to implement the program. The state also has an opportunity to receive an additional $1.5 million if it is able to meet performance targets.

“As we continue to combat the opioid crisis, this new funding presents a unique opportunity to improve health outcomes for one of Maryland’s most vulnerable populations,” said health department chief operating officer Dennis Schrader. “This initiative will result in bringing better health care to mothers and children at an especially critical time.”

Risks of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant and postpartum women who misuse substances are at higher risk for poor maternal outcomes, including preterm labor and delivery complications. The problems are frequently made worse by malnourishment, interpersonal violence, and other health-related social needs.

“The social aspects of health care play an enormous role in public health,” said Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips. “Medicaid’s MOM initiative aligns with Public Health’s community-based opioid intervention and prevention efforts. Together, we have greater potential to help more women with opioid use disorder and their infants get better care across the state.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which awarded the grants for the MOM model, has said that substance abuse-related illness is now a leading cause of maternal death. Infants exposed to opioids before birth are also at an increased risk of negative outcomes.

“Too many barriers impede the delivery of well-coordinated, high-quality care to pregnant and postpartum women struggling with opioid misuse, including lack of access to treatment and a shortage of providers in rural areas, where the opioid crisis is especially destructive,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “The MOM model will support state Medicaid agencies, front-line providers and healthcare systems to help ensure that mothers and infants afflicted by the opioid epidemic get the care they need.”

In addition to Maryland, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia will also receive federal funding to implement the MOM program in their jurisdictions.

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