New Program Helps Families in Recovery

New motherhood is an acutely stressful time for any woman. It is an especially precarious time for women recovering from substance use when the stress and demands of a newborn can overwhelm a woman’s resources to cope. As a leader in the field of addiction services, BMC is pioneering a program that will support women and their babies during this fragile new phase in life.

To treat mothers and their new babies together and support them in long-term recovery, BMC has opened the Supporting our Families through Addiction and Recovery (SOFAR) clinic. Building on BMC’s groundbreaking prenatal treatment center, Project RESPECT, which cares for expectant women with substance use disorders, the new pediatric clinic focuses on a compassionate approach to care for both mother and child.

“Most of these mothers have significant trauma histories and because our culture criminalizes addiction, they feel like criminals when they are just very vulnerable people,” explains Clinic Director and Chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics Eileen Costello, MD. “Our goal is to support and encourage the mother because the prognosis of the baby is entirely dependent on the mother doing well.”

The SOFAR clinic provides multiple interventions to help women maintain sobriety while adjusting to new motherhood. If the mother is less than age 26, she may receive her treatment for substance use within BMC’s CATALYST Clinic—a program which helps teens and young adults struggling with addiction—at the same time as her baby’s well visit. Women more than 26 years old are referred to the addiction services in adult medicine. At the SOFAR clinic, babies receive their primary care with attention to the particular issues that can affect infants once they are discharged from the hospital. The multidisciplinary SOFAR team includes addiction specialists, mental health experts and infectious disease specialists (for Hepatitis C care for infants). In addition, the mother is paired with a patient navigator to help her work with community agencies to obtain housing and other special services such as parenting support. A peer counsellor in recovery is a part of the team and meets moms during their visits.

This innovative model of care comes at a time when maternal use of opioids continues to grow at an alarming rate nationwide. Since opening its doors in July, the clinic has seen an overwhelming response and is currently caring for 58 mother-baby pairs.

Costello notes that although new motherhood is a time rife with stressors, it can also be a turning point for positive behavior change. “After birth, women are so in love with their new babies and in this euphoric state where they are motivated and want to make a change for the better.”

Ultimately SOFAR’s goal is to help the smallest victims of the opioid epidemic overcome the odds.

“If we can support the mother’s health and sobriety then we have a chance to prevent the next generation from substance use,” explains Costello.

The SOFAR clinic is part of BMC’s Grayken Center for Addiction. The Grayken Center for Addiction is revolutionizing care for substance use disorders through innovation and advocacy, working to empower and improve the lives of people affected by the disease and create replicable care models for those at the front lines of the opioid crisis.