HCN News & Notes

Baystate Franklin’s Birthplace Wins Grant to Expand EMPOWER Program

GREENFIELD — The EMPOWER program at Baystate Franklin Medical Center (BFMC), designed to help pregnant women with opioid-use disorder (OUD) have healthy babies and pursue healthier futures, is poised to expand after receiving a two-year, $1 million federal grant.

BFMC partnered with the Center for Human Development (CHD) to pursue the grant. Through federal funding, a portion of which is dedicated to expand the state’s Moms Do Care (MDC) program, the Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Addiction Services has awarded Baystate Franklin Medical Center the only Western Mass. Moms Do Care franchise of the five it is currently funding. 

The EMPOWER program currently serves approximately 30 women and families in Franklin County each year. It is a community-based program, created by the Franklin County Perinatal Support Coalition, to provide support and resources for women with OUD which promote healthy pregnancy and birth, provide parenting support, and encourage long-term recovery.

The grant will allow BFMC to partner with CHD to form a medical/behavioral-health home which will provide expanded support to pregnant, postpartum, and parenting women ages 18 or older (who may also have a child or children 36 months or younger) with OUD and/or a history of opioid overdose.

“Since 2015, EMPOWER has successfully focused on supporting families during pregnancy and birth, but we have always wanted to extend our support to include the postpartum period, when research shows mothers can be vulnerable to depression and relapse,” said Linda Jablonski, assistant nurse manager at Baystate Franklin Medical Center. 

Jablonski will lead the initiative along with Katherine Cook, CHD’s vice president of Behavioral Health Services. CHD will spearhead the behavioral-health component of the expanded program.

MDC programs emphasize the importance of peer-to-peer support, partnering women with other women who have lived experience, who are in recovery, and have been specially trained to work with women with OUD. Women enrolled in other MDC programs in Massachusetts report positive outcomes such as abstinence from substance use, reduction in opioid overdose, reduction in trauma, and increase in recovery supports. MDC EMPOWER in Franklin County will offer peer support through recovery coaches and doulas, trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during, and after childbirth.

“Pregnancy can be an ideal time for women to get the help they need with OUD; however, they face obstacles such as stigma, guilt, and fear as they try to access services,” Jablonski said. “Despite being the most rural county in the state, Franklin County has excellent resources and a strong commitment to serving this vulnerable population. The additional services we’ll be able to provide with Moms Do Care funding will not only help the women and families we serve, but will have a positive impact our community as well.”

According to the 2015 Health Policy Commission report, the Birthplace at Baystate Franklin Medical Center had the second-highest neonatal abstinence rate in Western Mass. and the eighth highest in the state.

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