Program helps pregnant women battling opioid addiction

Grand Rapids

GREENVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Pregnant women battling a history of opioid use are getting new hope thanks to a Spectrum Health program.

It’s called G.R.E.A.T. Moms, which stands for Grand Rapids Encompassing Addiction Treatment with Maternal Obstetrics Management. It started as a pilot program a year ago and will now be offered long term.

“I’m honestly not sure what we would’ve done if we hadn’t found this program,” Elizabeth Visniski, a mother in Greenville, said. “I am proud of myself now and I can’t remember the last time that I could say that.”

Her battle with opioid addiction began 10 years ago, well before her 6-month old son Silas was born.

“I sort of got into this mess because a doctor prescribed me a medication that maybe I didn’t really need; maybe I needed it temporarily,” Visniski told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

She said she knew she couldn’t keep taking several pills a day. That’s where help from Spectrum Health came in.

“We’re here to support women throughout their journey,” Dr. Cara Poland, the addiction medicine specialist working with G.R.E.A.T. Moms, said. “Whether you’re actively using or in a stage of recovery, we’re here for women that are in all stages of addiction.”

The program uses medication-assisted treatment, which means its patients keep taking a regulated dosage of an opioid during their pregnancies. Poland explained that research shows stopping opioid use when pregnant places women at high risk of losing their babies.

“If they have a diagnosed substance use disorder, we get them in medications that will support them during their pregnancy in order to keep them safe,” she said.

At the Maternal Fetal Medicine office, G.R.E.A.T. Moms patients can see a certified nurse midwife and physician, undergo an ultrasound, and visit Poland. Counseling resources are also provided. Poland said having everything under one roof results in fewer missed appointments, keeping mothers and babies healthier.

Visniski and her boyfriend Robert Dale said they were impressed with all the resources available to them. They encouraged pregnant women to take advantage of the program.

“Put it all together because one slice isn’t going to be enough. Two slices isn’t going to be enough. You need the whole pie,” Visniski said.

Mothers also keep receiving medication after the pregnancy in an effort to keep them from dangerous or illicit options.

Poland explained that some babies are born with withdrawal symptoms after medication-assisted pregnancy, but that research shows there are no known differences in child development up to age 2. More research is still needed past that age.

For more information on the program, you can contact Spectrum Health’s Maternal Fetal Medicine office.

“No matter what stage you’re at, no matter how deep into ‘the life’ that you think that you are, you can get out,” Visniski said.

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