Xavier Magazine

Helping Moms Beat Heroin

Every heroin-addicted mother who comes to the HOPE program has a plan: Step one—get off heroin. Step two—deliver a healthy baby.

Step three should be—thank Dr. Michael Marcotte. While they’re at it, they can also thank the team of nurses, case managers and social workers at TriHealth’s Helping Opiate-addicted Pregnant Women Evolve (HOPE) program, which has a higher success rate for heroin-addicted mothers than the national average.

The secret to success? They ask the women what they need to get healthy, says Marcotte, the program’s medical director. Marcotte, a 1987 graduate with a degree in Natural Science, believes this holistic approach that focuses on the mothers’ needs has helped more women get off drugs and deliver healthy babies. Their data suggest that 50 to 75 percent of women in the program stop using drugs during pregnancy, which is higher than the national average for drug or opiate addiction treatment, Marcotte says.

“We trust them, and then they begin to trust us, and they’re willing to do things that are hard,” he adds. “Being in recovery is not easy. It’s about confronting all those things that your drug addiction has allowed you to ignore, suppress, avoid—things like relationship problems and being poor and being in unsafe situations.”

Every heroin-addicted woman he works with wants the same things: get off the drugs, which cause them to lose everything, give their babies the best chance at a healthy life, and be good parents, even if that means picking a family to adopt their infants.

Marcotte is a maternal fetal medicine specialist and director of quality and safety for women’s services at TriHealth. The company’s two maternity hospitals, Good Samaritan and Bethesda North, deliver more than 10,000 babies a year—including babies delivered by women on heroin. His work with addicted women is just one facet of his efforts to lower the infant mortality rate in Hamilton County, Ohio, where it’s 60 percent higher than the national average. The county recently experienced a 50-percent drop in infant crib deaths from 2013 to 2014, thanks to an emphasis on teaching better sleep positioning.

“We went from 14 babies in Hamilton County who died of unsafe sleep positioning in 2013 down to seven last year,” he says. Marcotte credits his Xavier experience for reinforcing the values that led him to his work with the HOPE program. “This is kind of a lifelong desire that I’ve had,” he says.     

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