In 2014, the Pregnancy Recovery Center (PRC) at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC became one of the country’s first programs to provide concurrent treatment for opioid dependency as well as prenatal care and delivery. Through the support of a Centers of Excellence (COE) grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the PRC has expanded to five new locations in three counties, providing comprehensive services for expectant mothers closer to home. Patients can now be seen in Butler, Clairton, Beaver, Natrona Heights and Monroeville, and all deliveries take place at Magee.

“The benefit of being able to remain close to home while managing their pregnancy and treatment cannot be underestimated for these women. With this COE grant, we are now able to bring the expertise of our PRC specialists to patients in outlying areas where these services are needed the most to continue to reduce the impact that opioid addiction has on mothers and babies throughout western Pennsylvania,” said Patty Genday, executive director of women’s services, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.

All PRC patients are prescribed buprenorphine—which is effective for converting patients off opioids—or another opioid replacement, on an outpatient basis. Treatment also includes behavioral counseling, clinic visits and consultations with social workers, in addition to routine prenatal check-ups. Counseling services at the new PRC locations are conducted in conjunction with regional behavioral health providers.

“Treatment for addiction is most effective when integrated with treatment for physical and mental health as well as social services. Most people with substance use disorders, particularly opioid use disorder, also have a daunting array of other health and psychological problems,” said Antoine Douaihy, MD, senior academic director of addiction medicine services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC. “This comprehensive program provides treatment of substance use disorder and any related psychiatric disorders that are highly prevalent in pregnant women. Treating one improves outcomes in treating the other.”

Research suggests that pregnant women using buprenorphine instead of methadone recover faster after birth, and babies experience fewer side effects. Sixty percent of babies born at Magee to mothers treated with methadone require medication for withdrawals, whereas only 35 percent of newborns whose mothers received treatment from the PRC require medication.

“For many women, pregnancy enhances their chances of overcoming their opioid dependency,” said Michael England, MD, director of the PRC. “We are offering women and their babies an opportunity to move forward.”