The Berkshire Eagle  reports Dr. Kathleen Sheridan was at a national gynecology convention in 2017 when she shared with colleagues the rate of babies born in Berkshire County who are exposed to opioids.

That rate, 82 per 1,000 babies born at Berkshire Health Systems, was about four times the state average and 10 times the national average, said Sheridan, an OB-GYN with BHS.

That number has since grabbed the attention of state and community leaders, agencies and health care providers, who have joined forces to ensure that these babies and their moms are getting the services and care they need to thrive.

Representatives from a variety of agencies regularly meet to discuss how best to address opioid-exposed families. To do that, the collaborative has formed a network of support services.

One of the more recent additions is First Steps Together, a grant-funded program that works with pregnant and postpartum women who have opioid use disorder. The program, which is a part of the Center for Human Development in Springfield, is based at an office on North Street. There, women and their babies are paired with family recovery support specialists with lived addiction experience, participate in parenting and recovery groups, meet with a staff clinician and are linked to any social services they might need.

Last Thursday, several moms participated in a parenting group at the office. One room at the office was filled with diapers — free to members of the program. Clothing and books related to motherhood also were there for the taking.

One 22-year-old woman spent several hours at the First Steps office with her nearly 2-month-old baby. The woman, who asked not to be named, has been in recovery for two years and comes to play groups and parenting groups once a week. Her family recovery support specialist picks her up in Adams to take her to the office.

Barnaby has enrolled 35 parents in First Steps Together since March 1 and expects to hit 50 by the end of the year.


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