Connecticut has the fifth highest rate of opioid-related emergency department visits in the country. According to data from the Connecticut Office of the Medical Examiner, Connecticut had 1,038 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2017, of which more than 85 percent were related to opioids. From 2003 to 2014, hospitalizations of babies born addicted to opioids and experiencing withdrawal nearly tripled in Connecticut, from 137 to 384.
Thanks to an $80,000 grant funded by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Connecticut Hospital Association (CHA) has been able to support the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Comprehensive Education and Needs Training (NASCENT) project. This project was created to educate clinicians about their role in decreasing opioid misuse, thus reducing the number of individuals exposed to opioids in the first place – a critical public health concern.
After conducting an extensive survey in partnership with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Children and Families, CHA found that hospitals can benefit from standardizing the way providers identify and treat mothers using harmful substances at the time of delivery. The survey also found that they can benefit from creating consistency in how they identify and treat at-risk infants for exposure to substance abuse.
Because 80% of opioid prescribers are reported to be primary care doctors, over the past year, the NASCENT project has been raising clinician awareness about substance use disorder and educating them, through office-based education sessions, about women of childbearing age who are at risk. To date NASCENT has signed on more than 2,500 providers for online and in-person training in the Hartford and Southeastern region. Providers come from six organizations including Hartford Hospital, Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Community Health Center Association of Connecticut Federally Qualified Health Centers, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and UConn John Dempsey Hospital. CHA also provided outreach to 40 healthcare practices as part of this effort.
“At a time when the opioid crisis is affecting so many of our patients across all disciplines of care, educational programs like NASCENT offer crucial information and practice pattern recommendations to help providers meet the needs of our patients head on,” said Christopher Morosky, MD, Associate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UConn John Dempsey Hospital and University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and Co-chairperson of the Connecticut Perinatal Quality Collaborative. “Programs like this are an important part of the hard work that needs to be done to encourage best practices for physician opioid prescribing and care for patients with opioid use disorder.”
The Hartford Foundation has had long-standing investments in substance abuse and mental health services, and these funds have provided programmatic, operating and capacity-building support to organizations in the region working in these areas. Best practices have focused on prevention, treatment and recovery. Funds for prevention have supported online education about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, weekly opioid prevention training and population data on mental health and substance abuse.
According to Yvette Bello, senior community investments officer at the Hartford Foundation, “What is compelling about the NASCENT project is that it is upstream prevention. This project increases opioid addiction education and training among providers who prescribe and care providers of pregnant patients. It ultimately decreases the number of children born addicted to opioids.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $720 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.