Supporting Opioid Use Disorder Treatment in Pregnant Women
Even prior to COVID-19, too many Americans were already suffering at the hands of another public health crisis: the opioid epidemic. Over the past two decades, the number of Americans impacted by opioid use disorder (OUD) has steadily risen to 1.6 million. In 2019, the U.S. experienced nearly 50,000 deaths involving opioids, over six times the number in 1999.
OUD is especially harmful for pregnant women and new moms. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 6.6% of women reported prescription opioid use during pregnancy, with 21.2% of these women reporting having misused opioids. Further, 27.1% of those reporting prescription opioid misuse said they wanted or needed to cut down or stop using.
To help educate and raise awareness about OUD treatment options for pregnant mothers and new moms, HealthyWomen, a Modern Medicaid Alliance partner, hosted an online webinar titled “Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Mom: Reducing Barriers to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.” This webinar convened leading experts to discuss treatment options for OUD and the barriers that women frequently face when it comes to accessing these critical treatments.
One webinar participant, Nancy Wolf, is CEO of Libertae, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based organization that offers long-term residential, halfway house, and outpatient services to treat and support women suffering from substance use disorders. Libertae offers residential setting care for pregnant women who are battling OUD, including women covered through Medicaid, allowing them to receive the support they need. Through its partnership with behavioral health managed care organizations, Libertae enables pregnant women to receive holistic care, including social and family services.
Libertae’s program is just one example of how Medicaid serves an important role in combatting the opioid epidemic — facilitating health care and treatment access for those who are struggling with OUD. Among nonelderly adults with OUD in 2017, almost 4 in 10 were covered by Medicaid. Additionally, research has indicated that Medicaid expansion is associated with reductions in opioid overdose deaths, highlighting the critical role that access to care plays in addressing the opioid epidemic.
While OUD is a complex challenge, Medicaid’s role in enabling coverage and treatment access is a core component in tackling this public health crisis.