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Treatment Program For Pregnant Women Battling Opioid Addiction Expanding To Erie

Sara Neff

A successful opioid addiction program for pregnant women at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh is expanding to UPMC Hamot in Erie.

Officials say it's in response to growing concern about opioid abuse in the region, and the need for pregnant woman to receive specialized addiction care.

About 80 percent of babies born to mothers with opioid addictions experience withdrawal after birth. Two-thirds of babies whose mothers participated in UPMC's Pregnancy Recovery Center, or PRC, are not addicted.

When it launched in 2014, Magee's PRC was one of the first clinics of it's kind in the country. Lindsay Duggan, a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Houston, went through Magee's Pregnancy Recovery Center shortly after it opened when she found out she was pregnant with twins. She says she was turned away from many hospitals in the country because she was pregnant with multiples, which was deemed too high risk.

"[Getting into the program] was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders," Duggan said. "It was the first time I though everything might be OK, I might be able to be a mom and not end up in jail, and maybe my babies won't be born unhealthy."

Duggan gave birth to two healthy girls and says she's been clean since participating in the program. She finished her last outpatient treatment, group therapy, earlier this year.

"The emotional support and being able to talk to other people who are going through what you're going through makes a huge difference," she said.

The center treats expectant mothers with a mix of drug therapy and behavioral counseling to shift patients off opioids. Unsupervised self-treatment, such as cutting out opioids cold turkey, can be dangerous for both the mother and the unborn child.

UPMC spokesperson Amy Charley said about 3 percent of babies born at the Hamot hospital are opioid dependent.

(Photo Credit: Sara Neff on Flickr)