The Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition was awarded a three-year grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (HHS OWH) to reduce the alarming rate of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition experienced by neonates exposed to opioid prescription or illicit drugs during the prenatal period. The grant will be managed by a prevention director at the Azalea Project, an initiative of the Coalition focused on substance-misusing women.
With this new grant, the Coalition will provide primary prevention education workshops to health
consumers and health providers in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties on topics such as recognizing the signs of substance abuse, resource education, an overview of the opioid epidemic and proper disposal of prescription drugs. High-risk consumer groups will be targeted, including women with a history of domestic violence, adults who didn’t finish high school, faith-based organizations and college-aged young adults. Additionally, health care providers and their staff will be trained on Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an evidence based tool, that aims to increase the screening of women for substance use prior to pregnancy
The Coalition will also establish a new partnership with Lutheran Services Florida (LSF) Health Systems to train a cohort of 60 peers (20 per grant year) as Certified Recovery Peer Specialists.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2002 and 2013, heroin use among women increased by 100 percent nationally. A March 2015 report released by the Florida Department of Health shows that Northeast Florida has high rates of infants born with NAS. Nassau (#5), Baker (#7) and Clay (#10) counties all ranked in the top 10 counties with the highest rates in the state, 145-187 percent higher than the state rate. Duval County has the highest number of babies born with NAS than any other county at 450 babies.
The Coalition, which has a long history of addressing substance use in women, was one of 16 projects selected for funding across the country. In 2003, the Coalition launched the Azalea Project in a storefront in Jacksonville’s Springfield neighborhood to reduce risk-taking behavior in substance abusing pregnant and parenting women. The project works to break the cycle of substance use and other at-risk behaviors by providing outreach and intensive case management services. The OWH grant will allow Azalea to expand into primary prevention and support the efforts of the Coalition’s Substance-exposed Newborn Task Force.