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Opioid Operational Command Center, Maryland Department of Health, and University of Maryland School of Medicine Host Training on Caring for Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder

For immediate release: September 15, 2021

Hundreds of health care practitioners participated to learn about promoting access to substance-use treatment and recovery services during pregnancy

ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Opioid Operational Command Center (OOCC), the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), and the University of Maryland School of Medicine hosted a two-day virtual training this week designed to increase resources for pregnant and parenting women and who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD). The training was designed to educate healthcare practitioners on how to determine the best level of substance-use services for expectant and new mothers with OUD under their care.

The session was made possible with support from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which provided technical assistance for the session. The curriculum was also developed by SAMHSA and was provided free of charge. 

“The disease of addiction can affect people from all walks of life and at any stage of their life,” said MDH Secretary Dennis R. Schrader. “This training is one important way that MDH is helping ensure healthcare professionals can reach people with a substance use disorder at the most critical times, such as during pregnancy.”

“We need to provide comprehensive care for pregnant and parenting individuals with substance use disorders,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Interventions should be provided in ways to decrease stigma and promote family and community supports. We hope this training will help more physicians achieve these goals.”

The training focuses on educating healthcare providers about strategies for caring for women with OUD during and after pregnancy. This includes counseling patients about different treatment options and the potential dangers of opioid use during pregnancy, starting medications for opioid use disorder (such as methadone and buprenorphine), screening and treatment techniques for neonatal abstinence syndrome and neonatal opioid withdrawal, and promoting coordinated care between providers to address the comprehensive needs of the patient and infant.

“Being pregnant is a very special and important time in the life of a woman, and it is a time when she makes many decisions to benefit her unborn child,” said Dr. Aliya Jones, Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health at the Maryland Department of Health. “It is important to ensure that providers caring for pregnant women are able to give the best, evidence-informed recommendations to help increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and ultimately a healthy baby and family.”

“This training can help save someone’s life,” said Dr. Shelly Choo, Director of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at Maryland Department of Health. “Equipping practitioners with the correct tools is the first step for providing the appropriate level of care for opioid use disorder during pregnancy, which can make an enormous difference for someone who needs help.” 

The training was also supported by the OOCC, which has identified increasing behavioral health care coordination for individuals living with substance use disorder as one of its strategic priorities in Maryland’s Inter-Agency Opioid Coordination Plan. This includes promoting additional resources to care for substance-exposed newborns and their mothers. 

“The opioid crisis doesn’t only affect people who use drugs, it affects the people around them, individuals who may either support them or rely on them for support,” said OOCC Executive Director Robin Rickard. “Increasing substance-use resources during pregnancy not only helps improve the well-being of mothers with OUD, it can make an enormous impact on their newborns, who will benefit for the rest of their lives.”

Maryland Medicaid was also involved in bringing the training to Maryland. Agency officials cited the high proportion of low-income individuals affected by opioid use during pregnancy. According to a study from SAMHSA, pregnant women that used opioids were more likely to be living at or below the federal poverty level.

“Training opportunities like this that can improve the quality of care for our participants are invaluable,” said Steve Schuh, Deputy Secretary for Health Care Financing and Medicaid at the Maryland Department of Health. “By investing today in resources for mothers with OUD, we are building lasting infrastructure in our healthcare system that will help reduce maternal opioid mortality for years to come.”


Before It’s Too Late is the state’s effort to bring awareness to the opioid and substance use crisis and to mobilize resources for effective prevention, enforcement, and treatment. 

The Opioid Operational Command Center is Maryland’s principal coordinating office for addressing the opioid crisis. Under the guidance of the Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council, the OOCC leads Maryland’s opioid-related strategic planning and coordinates the efforts of approximately 20 state agencies, our community partners, and all 24 local jurisdictions throughout the state. The OOCC can be contacted by email at