Memorial Hospital announces new initiative


Scott McKinnon, President and CEO of Memorial Hospital in North Conway, NH, today announced the hospital’s new initiative to offer a comprehensive coordinated treatment program for opioid-dependent prenatal patients. The program will be rolled out in early 2016 and will serve pregnant women receiving prenatal care through the hospital’s Women’s Health practice. The program was created due to the sharp increase in the number of babies being born drug-dependent over the course of the last few years at the small rural hospital.

“Our nurse midwives, OB/GYN doctors and Birthing Center staff have seen first-hand the devastation that the opioid epidemic has created, impacting the smallest and most vulnerable members of our community.  The staff came forward with this idea for offering this program here at Memorial,” stated McKinnon. “We are not aware of any other critical access hospitals offering this in our state. We were fortunate that the Memorial Hospital Foundation was willing to help fund the program earlier this year.” The Foundation funded both this program and a new behavioral health provider for their primary care practice at the spring 2015 Foundation board meeting.

The only other similar comprehensive coordinated prenatal program identified in the state of NH is at the much larger Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

The idea initially came from Certified Nurse Midwife Julie Bosak. Bosak believed that the prenatal period offers a unique window of opportunity to help these women when they are motivated to seek treatment, when they are already in a healthcare setting for prenatal care, and the period immediately after birth. Bosak stated, ”Our goal is to create a centralized, coordinated program that will provide weekly support for this population during pregnancy and for a period of the postpartum time.”

“Self-worth is an underlying issue,” Bosak continued, “Because of this, one of the goals of the program is to build self-esteem in these women. The hope is that with this support, they will be able to adopt and then sustain healthy habits. We want to embrace the opportunity presented by pregnancy and becoming a new mom as a life event.”

Kris Dascoulias, clinical manager of the Birthing Center added that they have been and are currently offering prenatal education related to substance abuse and have been for two years. RN Leigh Copsey initiated it as part of her BSN studies and identified the growing problem and brought it to Dascoulias’ attention. The outcome was the team’s recommendation to create this new comprehensive program.

The percentage of pregnant women presenting at Memorial Hospital with opioid dependence (primarily heroin, but also oxycodone and other drugs) has skyrocketed, an increase seen throughout the region. The infants born to these addicted women are considered drug-exposed and require Neonatal Abstinence Scoring (NAS) over a minimum of five days in an acute care setting. Without this formal program in place, clinical staff have provided the treatment, coordination of care and postpartum management these patients require, but have concluded that a structured coordinated program is needed in order to best serve these patients and deliver the highest quality of care.

Sue Ruka, Memorial Hospital’s Director of Population Health, said that the expected outcome of the program is fewer babies being born drug-exposed, and fewer new mothers continuing their drug use.

Ruka shared, “We understand that this is an illness with underlying root causes. It’s not a choice. We want to provide care in a non-judgmental environment. In 2014, 10% of Memorial Hospital’s prenatal patients, about 24 women, were identified as current opioid drug users, requiring substance abuse treatment.

Without a consistent program in place, it is difficult for these patients to receive the types of services necessary for the best outcomes. This program will result in decreased infant exposure to street drugs, decreased extended hospital stays, and better outcomes for both mothers and newborns.”

This new structured program will promote a coordinated, centralized approach to care, providing ongoing support for mothers, and improved neonatal health. Specifically, it will provide:

  • screening for substance and alcohol abuse to 100% of prenatal patients;
  • Subutex treatment for opioid addicted prenatal patients;
  • Suboxone treatment for postpartum opioid addicted patients;
  • Group therapy;
  • Education about NAS infants and available community resources;
  • Case management services;
  • Transportation assistance;
  • Healthy snacks for participants;
  • Financial advocacy services.

For more information about this program, please contact Director of Population Health Sue Ruka at 603-356-0634. Exact timing of the launch of the new program will be published at a later date.

About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, family birthing center, sleep center, wound care and hyperbaric medicine center, and the Miranda Center for Diabetes. Physician practices include primary care and family medicine, women’s health, orthopedics and sports medicine. The Merriman House, a 45-bed nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders, is also located on the hospital campus. Together, our staff and providers are committed to meeting the health needs of the Mt. Washington Valley and surrounding communities by collaborating with community partners in the delivery of accessible, comprehensive, compassionate, and quality health care.


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