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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A new initiative is hoping to help opioid-dependent mothers after they give birth.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation awarded Indiana University School of Medicine $844,065 to support CARE Plus. It will encourage new moms to start their recovery process. The goal is to help more opioid-dependent mothers get access to treatment and to improve long-term health outcomes for those mothers and their infants.

Many babies in Indiana are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, which results from mothers’ use of drugs during pregnancy. The IU School of Public Health wrote a report in September 2016 and they found 657 infants were born with NAS just two years prior.

“It is in extreme discomfort. It would be like any other person going through withdrawals,” said Dr. Deb Litzelman, a professor at IU School of Medicine.

Dr. Litzelman said there is a gap in care for these mothers and their babies. She and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation hope to fill it through this new program.

All opioid-dependent mothers who deliver babies at IU Health Methodist Hospital will be offered CARE Plus. It’s a free program but if the family needs additional medical treatment, they will need to get it covered by their insurance.

To help overcome the challenges of reaching this vulnerable population, IU School of Medicine is working with IDEO, a global design firm.

The human-centered design approach integrates feedback from the population being served to inform improvements and adjustments. CARE Plus will also provide a connecting to medication-assisted treatment and vital social services, personalized coaching and supportive text messaging, and therapy designed to develop strong emotional bonds between children and mothers.

“We really need to take an all hands on deck approach to helping moms struggling with addiction.” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.

IU School of Medicine hopes to launch the program next January.