The Missoulian partnered with the University of Montana School of Journalism to identify best practices for treating pregnant women who use drugs and to analyze why Montana has largely fallen short. Over three months, the team interviewed more than a dozen women, numerous experts, and leaders at Montana hospitals, treatment centers and state government.
The drug crisis hits newborns in Montana harder than in most states because Montana has so few resources to help pregnant women recover from addiction. Four women share their experiences.
Infants exposed to drugs in-utero can experience devastating immediate impacts, but the long-term effects are largely unknown and may be linked more closely to social factors, including poverty.
The stigma of drug use is amplified for pregnant women, deterring them from care and making them more likely to end up in jail than recovery.
Montana has an extreme shortage of physicians licensed to administer buprenorphine, a prescription drug shown to more than triple the success of recovery if paired with counseling.
Only a sliver of pregnant Montanans who seek drug treatment receive it. Recovery professionals say inadequate funding keeps them from expanding services.
Addiction treatment for pregnant women is scarce on Montana reservations. Women often need to travel hours to access services.
One Montana hospital has dramatically reduced both the amount of time drug-exposed infants spend in intensive care and the number of kids placed into foster care.
State leaders are concerned with the rising number of infants born drug dependent and the link to foster care, but few are focusing on how to help their mothers, creating a gap in state policy that fuels the problem.
Women who used drugs during pregnancy share handwritten notes about their stories, advice for others and hopes for the future. A collection of short personal essays and portraits.