A Pittsburgh hospital is opening a unit that will allow women to stay with their opioid-dependent infants, aiming to foster better bonds between mother and child and reduce postpartum overdose deaths.
The unit, initially six rooms, will open early next year at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital.
Treatment plans typically separate the mother and baby after birth, as medical personnel monitor the infant's withdrawal symptoms and sometimes administer morphine to ease symptoms.
The new unit at Magee will have mothers room with their babies while the child gets medical help and the woman is trained to care for herself and the baby, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported .
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Elizabeth Krans, an investigator at the Magee-Womens Research Institute, said the hospital is trying to reduce depression and stress among new mothers and encourage recovery, noting that medical officials have seen "spikes in overdoses and overdose mortality" after birth.
The hospital, which has already received a $500,000 state grant to address the opioid epidemic, is seeking additional funding to build the Parent Participation Unit, to be located in Magee's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Construction will cost an additional $500,000.
Teresa Miller, acting secretary of the state Department of Human Services, met with hospital officials this week. She said funding "is obviously a really important part of enabling them to continue to do this excellent work," but made no promises.
About 7 percent of the 10,000 children born at Magee each year experience symptoms of opioid withdrawal, the paper reported.
Jennifer Kloesz, medical director of Magee's NICU, said that while the new approach might cost more, it's possible the infants could be discharged more quickly and moms will be "comfortable with bringing their baby home."