Unmet behavioral health needs of pregnant and pospartum women impact the health and wellbeing of women and their families, and there are many organizations working across the state of Montana to draw on evidence-based approaches to addressing these needs. In December 2021, the Montana Public Health Institute (MTPHI) published a research brief led by JG that summarizes the needs and innovative statewide efforts to support pregnant and postpartum women with behavioral health needs. The brief is available for download from the MTPHI Resource Library: https://mtphi.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/PPW-Brief.pdf.

Recent data summarized by JG suggests that substance use disorders (SUD) among pregnant women in Montana are an area of particular need, as the rate of newborns diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is higher than the national average and has overall been increasing since 2016 (the most recent state data available is from 2019 and national data is from 2017).

On specific statewide effort to support pregnant and postpartum women with SUD and their families is the Strengthening Families Initiative (SFI), for which JG provides evaluation and data reporting support. The major goals of SFI are to fill service provision gaps by increasing access to higher level specialty SUD services for pregnant and postpartum mothers, continue care coordination across extended higher-level services, expand the focus to include families, and increase recovery housing supports. SFI also fills existing gaps in provider capacity by increasing workforce development and expanding the number of Licensed Addiction Counselors (LACs), dually licensed mental health and SUD providers, and peer support specialists to support this population. The grant supports continued infrastructure development to improve cross-program, cross-sector communication, coordination, and collaboration; it is also further embedding the referral, planning, goal-setting, service delegation, and data sharing protocols into state prenatal/postpartum SUD infrastructure. Six sites in Montana are supported by the SFI grant: Rimrock Foundation (Billings); YWCA Helena; Florence Crittenton Family Services (Helena); One Health – Miles City; Partnership for Children (Missoula); and Mountain Home (Missoula). Since the program started in 2021, there have been almost 1100 client encounters (individual services provided) across the six sites