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Next week, a team of Massachusetts leaders will participate in the 2017 Policy Academy: Improving Outcomes for Pregnant and Postpartum Women with Opioid Use Disorders and their Infants, Families and Caregivers. The Academy is sponsored by Substance Abuse and Mental HealthService Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

As the state continues to battle the opioid epidemic this is a topic of pressing need for the Commonwealth to address across multiple agencies and departments as the rate of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome discharges per 1,000 births is rising in Massachusetts at a faster rate than nationally(29% vs. 23%) and this rate has increased 31 percent since 2011.

The Massachusetts team – one of 10 teams selected to participate in the Policy Academy – and its members represent many of the state agencies which provide support and services to mothers, newborns, infants and children impacted by opioid use. The Commonwealth’s team includes representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Children and Families, Department of Public Health, Office of Behavioral Health within MassHealth, Health Policy Commission andExecutive Office of Health and Human Services.

The team will also be joined by a neonatologist and chair of the Neonatal Quality Improvement Collaborative of Massachusetts, a collaboration of the level III NICUs in Massachusetts that focuses on the use of open sharing of data and practices to improve health outcomes for newborns across the state.

Working with other states and national experts provided through the Policy Academy, the team will create a state specific policy action plan and build on the existing cross-agency collaboration in order to support the implementation of the unified state plan to address the complex needs of this population.

One particular area the Policy Academy took note of in selecting the Massachusetts team was the commitment the Legislature and Governor Baker made to this population in the establishment of the Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

This cross-agency Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders, and Judge Gail Garinger, Director, Child & Youth Protection Unit, Office of the Attorney General, will develop a uniform statewide plan that will provide for the coordination of care and services for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome and substance exposed newborns.

Through the identification of gaps in existing services and programs, developing population-health outcome goals and devise a state plan for data collection, data sharing and quality improvement in the Commonwealth to better serve mothers and newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome and substance exposed newborns. It is expected the support of the Policy Academy will build off the unified state plan developed by this Task Force.

For more information about the Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, please visit http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/commissions-and-initiatives/task-force-on-newborns-with-nas/

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