Maine is ramping up a federally funded pilot program to provide more pregnant women and new mothers with treatment for substance use disorders as well as other services to support them and their babies.

The Maine Maternal Opioid Misuse – MaineMOM – program run by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services launched in July and currently has about 25 patients statewide. But officials said that there could be hundreds in the program by the end of the year and even more in the coming years. About 900 Maine women gave birth last year to babies that had been exposed to illicit drug use or medications to treat substance use.

The MaineMOM program is currently available at 16 locations throughout the state, from Caribou to Sanford. DHHS is launching a major marketing push to increase awareness of the program this fall.

“The goal is to reduce barriers to treatments for mom,” said Alane O’Connor, the clinical adviser of MaineMOM and a nurse practitioner who treats about 10 patients in the new program at her office in Augusta. “Give them all of the services they need in one setting.”

The program pairs prenatal services through delivery and up to a year after a baby is born with substance use treatment programs, therapy, peer support and social workers. It also connects the patients with services that they may not have known how to apply for or that they qualified for, such as help with housing, transportation and child care costs.

MaineMOM will pay for the additional care and coordination of services for women who use the program.


Expecting mothers using illicit drugs or taking prescribed medications such as methadone give birth to hundreds of drug-affected babies each year in Maine. Some of those infants can have neonatal abstinence syndrome and experience withdrawal from the drugs, with symptoms such as trembling, seizures, vomiting or diarrhea, fever, sweating and persistent crying.

Pregnant women who are actively using opioids are advised by doctors to begin medication-assisted treatment rather than try to stop using drugs “cold turkey” during the pregnancy, because relapses are common.

Providing treatment and support to new mothers after they give birth is seen as a way to support both parents and children, and to reduce the need to rely on the state’s child protective system.

Maine reported that 1,024 substance-exposed babies were born in 2016, declining to 858 in 2019 before rebounding to 901 in 2020, according to DHHS. Maine has about 12,000 births per year, so about 7 to 8 percent – or roughly one in 12 – of all babies born in Maine per year are born drug-affected.

According to the most recent federal report on the topic – from 2016 – Maine had the second-highest rate of drug-affected births in the nation.

It’s not clear why the number of drug-affected babies increased from 2019 to 2020 after several years of decline, although it does not necessarily indicate an increase in illicit drug use by expecting mothers. Included in the data for substance-exposed births are mothers taking medication-assisted treatment to treat their disease, and access to such treatment has expanded in recent years.


The MaineMOM program was a highlight of the two-day Substance Exposed Infant Conference, held virtually and hosted by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services last week.

While Maine and the nation are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid crisis has persisted.

Drug overdose deaths climbed to 504 in 2020, an all-time high that surpassed the previous record of 418 in 2017.

O’Connor said care for expecting and new mothers who are actively using opioids or recovering from addiction has traditionally been “fragmented” and the MaineMOM program’s goal is to bring all the services together and continue treatment for mothers after the baby is born.

“We just try to provide safe and supportive services for them,” O’Connor said. She said consistency of treatment is important. “Sometimes we would transport the moms somewhere else for postpartum treatment and people would fall through the cracks.”

Maine was one of 10 states selected for the five-year, $5.3 million federal program. Jackie Farwell, Maine DHHS spokeswoman, said the program will likely become a Medicaid service by July 2022, although it will also be available to those with private insurance.

To find out more about the program, including how to sign up, go to

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