For Immediate Release - April 03, 2017

State Report Highlights the Needs of Mothers and Children Impacted by Opioid Abuse

BOSTON – The Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Attorney General announced today that it is releasing more than 60 recommendations as a result of a cross-agency effort to identify ways to improve the coordination of care for mothers and their babies who are impacted by opioid abuse.

The recommendations were a culmination of a four-month effort by the Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, co-chaired by Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Judge Gail Garinger, Director, Child & Youth Protection Unit, Office of the Attorney General, which resulted in the identification of 12 gaps the state will address to care for newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and those born exposed to substances or Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN).

“The opioid epidemic has tragically impacted the lives of thousands of families across the Commonwealth,  including our smallest, and most vulnerable residents,” said Governor Baker. "As a result of our bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis, I’m pleased the report offers new recommendations to improve the care and coordination for mothers and infants and thank the task force for their efforts.”

“Battling the opioid crisis remains a top priority for the Baker-Polito Administration and while there are a number of resources in place to help women and their children, the Task Force identified the need for greater consistency, increased care coordination and an ability to collect and track outcomes,” said Secretary Sudders.  “The expanded data collection and analytic tools will allow us to more narrowly identify those cities and towns most impacted by this epidemic and will help decrease the number of NAS births which have increased over 25 percent in the last five years.”

“The opioid crisis is devastating to our communities and it is taking an immense toll on families across the state, and our office is committed to combatting this epidemic,” said Attorney General Maura Healey.  “It is crucial that we offer comprehensive services to women with substance use problems both prior to and after the birth of their child.  These babies, and their mothers and families require ongoing family-centered services that reflect addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease, and all of us must work together to provide these services.”

The Task Force aligned its recommendations to the landmark legislation passed in early 2016, An Act relative to Substance Use Treatment, Education, and Prevention, as well as the recommendations by the Governor’s Opioid Working Group. Specific highlights of the report include:

  • Concrete and actionable recommendations to fill or bridge the identified gaps, such as identifying and disseminating protocols for referrals and patient transfers, promote universal prenatal and neonatal screening
  • An inventory of over 75 existing services and programs for NAS/SEN affected families is included as part of the full report
  • Innovative analytics utilized by the Department of Public Health to bring together new data sources to bring  a more focused approach to those cities and towns of greatest need
  • A call for a statewide “NAS/SEN Performance Dashboard,” the creation of provider accountability for ensuring appropriate transitions of care and establishing a EOHHS-wide privacy policy that clearly delineates appropriate and inappropriate information-sharing
  • Continuation of this important work through a dedicated, multi-agency state team with access to national experts and fellow states seeking to implement similar recommendations

The Interagency Task Force’s focus is increasing access to treatment, promoting expanded access to naloxone, investigating pharmaceutical marketing and pharmacy dispensing practices, drafting legislation, and enhancing public education and awareness efforts across the state.  The recommendations from the Interagency Task Force are intended to strengthen the Attorney General’s work between their Opiate Task Force and the Child and Youth Protection Unit, as well as, better coordinate the efforts and resources from the Attorney General’s Office with the other state agencies focused on this issue. 

The Task Force’s recommendations will be implemented, in part, through the Commonwealth’s participation in the 2017 Policy Academy: Improving Outcomes for Pregnant and Postpartum Women with Opioid Use Disorders and their Infants, Families and Caregivers. The Massachusetts team – one of 10 teams selected to participate in the Policy Academy – represents all of the state agencies on the Interagency Task Force and will receive six months of technical assistance and access to national experts to further the planning and implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations. The Academy is sponsored by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. 

About the Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome:
The Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome was created by the Legislature to assess existing services and programs in the Commonwealth for mothers and newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, identify service gaps, and formulate a cross-system action plan for collecting data, developing outcome goals, and address service and support gaps in the Commonwealth. The Task Force included the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Mental Health, the Executive Director of the Health Policy Commission and the Commissioner of Department of Children.

For more information on the Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, including the complete State Plan, Task Force meeting agendas, materials and meeting minutes, please visit