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CLEVELAND -- For the second year in a row, the March of Dimes has given MetroHealth Medical Center a gift of $35,000 to improve the health of opiate-addicted pregnant women and their babies.

This year's grant allows MetroHealth to continue the Mother and Child Dependency Program it began in 2013, an outreach service that fosters the March of Dimes' goal of providing health education, information and other help to pregnant women who use alcohol or drugs.

Last year, the program served 98 women who were dependent on heroin or prescription opiates.

The Mother and Child Dependency Program also continues to provide care to the 61 babies the women delivered at MetroHealth in 2013. That care includes regular checkups for the infants to optimize their health and development.

"By renewing the grant supporting MetroHealth's Mother and Child Dependency Program, March of Dimes has, once again, shored up our ongoing efforts to help the most vulnerable members of our community -- the opiate-dependent pregnant mothers and their babies stricken by the clear and present crisis of opiate dependency," said Dr. Deepak Kumar, a MetroHealth neonatologist who co-directs the hospital system's Mother and Child Dependency Program.

Experience shows that many opiate-dependent pregnant mothers are beset by dire socioeconomic circumstances, chronic illness including mental health problems, victimization and involvement with the criminal justice system. In addition, their babies often have lower birth weights and require prolonged hospital stays, lasting three weeks or more, for treatment of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

The primary goal of MetroHealth's Mother and Child Dependency Program is to deliver coordinated, multidisciplinary services to opiate-dependent mothers and their babies in a nonjudgmental environment. The program empowers the mothers by emphasizing education through one-on-one conversations/consultations with specialists in high-risk obstetrics, neonatology, pediatrics, child development, psychiatry, drug addiction, infectious disease, social work, nutrition and other areas.

It also provides assistance, as needed, for items such as food, baby clothes, travel and parking.

Together, these services improve the health of the mothers and their babies and reduce overall long-term health care costs.

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