Early Start: An Integrated Model of Substance Abuse Intervention for Pregnant Women


 

By Cosette Taillac, LCSW, BCD; Nancy Goler, MD; Mary Anne Armstrong, MA; Kathleen Haley, MS; Veronica Osejo

Summer 2007 - Volume 11 Number 3

https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/07-013

Abstract

Untreated perinatal substance abuse is associated with serious adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Historically, many barriers have prevented pregnant women from seeking treatment. Early Start (ES) breaks new ground by sidestepping these barriers with a fully integrated service delivery model.

ES is the largest HMO-based prenatal substance-abuse program in the United States targeting all pregnant women seen at Kaiser Permanente Northern California (KPNC) prenatal clinics, currently screening more than 39,000 women each year. The program is based on the premise that substance abuse is a treatable disease and addresses it in a nonjudgmental, accepting manner. A substance-abuse counselor is located in each obstetrics clinic providing accessible one-to-one counseling to pregnant women screened at risk for alcohol, tobacco, or drug use as part of the routine prenatal care package offered to all patients.

A 2006 ES study, sponsored by the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, evaluated program effectiveness in terms of its impact on neonatal and maternal outcomes. Preliminary results that included 49,986 KPNC patients indicate that compared with pregnant women whose results on screening for substance use were positive but who were untreated, ES-treated women had significantly lower rates on a number of outcome measures.

The originality and transferability of ES has led to both local and national recognition. Universal screening of all pregnant women with access to an integrated model of substance-abuse treatment should be the standard of care for every prenatal patient because of the significant benefits for mothers and their babies.

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