Caring for Moms-To-Be With Substance Use Disorders

Catholic Health steps in on the opioid epidemic


Women with substance use disorders come from all walks of life. The disorder does not discriminate and can be hard to identify. This can make neonatal care difficult for doctors and nurses who unfortunately aren’t able to identify a patient with the disorder before it’s too late, which is what happened at Catholic Health. When staff at the system’s Western New York hospitals began to witness a staggering increase of neonatal abstinence syndrome in newborns, they took action immediately, partnering with the Tower Foundation to formulate a program to handle the issue.

The two-year pilot program includes trauma-informed care and screening training for OB/GYN providers and emergency room staff. The initiative also creates no-judgement, wrap-around services that connect all aspects of care and needed services for the baby and the mother, including medical care, substance use counseling, medication-assisted treatment providers, neonatal intensive care staff, and other community-based services. With the Tower Foundation’s assistance, Catholic Health was able to hire a full-time service navigator to develop and implement screening, provide counseling, and offer referrals at Sisters Hospital, Mercy Hospital in Erie County and Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Niagara County.

Aimee Gomlak, Vice President of Women’s Services at Catholic Health, notes: “Because the Tower Foundation had already been working with Erie County and with the provider community, they were way ahead of the game on the opioid issue. They have been a great partner for us as we developed tools for screening and sensitivity training to better serve moms and babies.”