THUNDER BAY -- A new pregnancy program for women addicted to opioids will help First Nations deal with a prescription drug problem that is plaguing northern communities, says Wilfred King.
"I think it can only get better. It can't get any worse than what it is today," said the chief of Gull Bay First Nation, who added that about 75 per cent of his community is addicted to some form of opioids.
King has been working with Thunder Bay physician Cheryl Everall for the past 18 months on the Substance Use in Pregnancy Program, which will offer prenatal care and addiction treatment to women within a primary health care clinic.
"It's really important women are being treated for this issue because they are the caregivers," said King.
"That will really assist First Nation communities dealing with this horrendous problem."
Everall, the medical director of the program, said the inspiration for SUPP came from experience working with methadone patients.
About 80 per cent of local patients receiving opioid addiction treatment don't have a access to primary care.
By giving the treatment in a family practice setting, Everall said it reduces the stigma around addiction while pregnant.
"Untreated opioid addiction is often secondary to the large amount of shame, guilt and stigmatization these women face," she said.
"We've provided a clinic that is safe so they can receive care for their complex medical needs."
Many women are also afraid their children will be taken by child protective services if they're treated for addiction while pregnant.
Through SUPP, more babies will be discharged home with their mothers, added Everall.
The program will run out of the Northwood Park Health Centre and intake will begin May 6. The treatment method offered is methadone maintenance therapy.
Everall said methadone is the gold standard of care to provide stabilization for both the mother and baby; it results in better birth weight and longer gestation.
King and Everall are also looking to partner in order to have methadone treatments dispensed in his community.
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