Sending a new mother home from the hospital with Narcan may seem like a stretch but a new initiative to do just that is growing across the state and being praised by physicians as a critical life-saving tool.
"Accidental overdose is one of the main drivers of maternal death," said Dr. Kaylin Klie, a Family Medicine and Addiction Specialist at UC Health.
Doctor Klie is particularly passionate about finding resources for mothers struggling with addiction. Part of that she says is making sure women who want to get better, know they can without losing their child to the state.
"If you had uncontrolled blood pressure, uncontrolled depression, we would be swarming that pregnant person with resources," Klie continued, "we think of substance use disorder as almost one of the only diseases where we tell people, 'go get well on your own and then you're welcome to go get medical care', and that does not work for a vast majority of people."
The Colorado Naloxone Project started with the hopes of getting emergency rooms to hand out Naloxone to patients who met the criteria. That effort was so successful, to its maternity ward last fall.
The Colorado Naloxone Project is now working with physicians across the state on the MOMS initiative (Maternal Overdose Matters), which aims make the Narcan kits part of regular post-partum care. Currently, 14 of Colorado's 48 maternity wards have signed on. The goal is to have 100% on board by October 2023.
"Giving naloxone to folks who are in active use in particular, I think feels very empowering to the health care system. To say wow there really is something I can do for you tangibly, that hopefully keeps the door open if and when you may be ready to come back and talk about treatment options… but it keeps people alive in the meantime to be able to make that decision," said Klie.
According to research done by maternal review committees like MOMS, The United States is in the midst of a fatal drug crisis among pregnant and postpartum women – over the past two decades, the rates of opioid use disorder have quadrupled.
Women struggling with addiction are not the only ones at risk. The study found that women who are prescribed opioids for procedures like cesarian sections are also at risk.
"This is the first time in their life that they're taking that medication I absolutely would want those folks to take home naloxone as well," said Klie.
Klie says that even if there is a mother who isn't at risk, if a family member is struggling with addiction, that would be another reason a physician would choose to send them home with the naloxone kit.
"We have an antidote, we have a rescue medication that really we need to be putting into the hands of all of the people in our community who may be at risk for substance abuse or overdose deaths," said Klie.
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