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Perinatal Substance Use and Improving Family Health

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Mother holds her swaddled baby in her arms.

Update on the Colorado SB21-137 Data Linkage Project
The Colorado Lab is working with the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention to better understand and address the growing issue of perinatal substance use. The vision for this project is to routinely track incident rates of perinatal substance use in Colorado and inform state investments, programs, and policies aimed at strengthening families affected by substance use during a pregnancy.

This vision is informed by experts from Colorado state agencies, universities, medical providers, the SuPPoRT Colorado Steering Committee of the Attorney General’s Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, advocacy groups, and families. The figure below illustrates the data sources recommended by these experts to accomplish project goals and progress on linking data as described in our legislative brief.

Initial research leveraging this data linkage focused on risk of infant removal by child welfare due to maternal substance use during pregnancy, as well as documented baseline data on mortality and morbidity outcomes for these maternal-infant dyads. The studies focused on modifiable risk and protective factors, which led to the Colorado Department of Human Services issuing an RFP for a pilot program to strengthen Colorado’s use of Plans of Safe Care (POSC) outside of hospital settings and child welfare involvement.

Plan of Safe Care

A written or electronic document intended to ensure the safety and well-being of an infant and caregiver affected by prenatal substance use following release from a health care provider.

Research to Action: Pilot Underway for Plans of Safe Care
With the SB21-137 data linkage studies pointing to POSC as an important means to improve care coordination and health outcomes for families affected by perinatal substance use, a 4-year pilot program has begun. The goal of the pilot is to create a data-informed strategic framework for coordinated POSC service delivery and tracking across Colorado.

Together with our partners, Illuminate Colorado and the Kempe Center, the Colorado Lab is studying how to use POSC to begin wrapping supports around families during pregnancy and continue support through the first year of life. Collectively, these elements will inform the development of a comprehensive POSC framework that can:

  • Guide cross-system policy and practice investments that improve outcomes for families,
  • Support Colorado state agencies in meeting state and federal responsibilities around caring for infants and caregivers impacted by perinatal substance use disorders, and
  • Cultivate a culture of collaborative responsibility for ensuring these Colorado families have every opportunity to thrive.

The study will move from the planning phase into implementation and continue over a 4-year period. To learn more, please contact
Dr. Courtney Everson.