Posted by Jennifer Meyerhardt

On Wednesday, March 25 several staff from JF&CSProject NESST® (Newborns Exposed to Substances Support and Therapy) had the exciting opportunity to participate in the Summit on Maternal Substance Use Disorders and Substances Exposed Newborns, organized by Laura Sternberger from Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. JF&CS was also proud to be a sponsoring member at the event.

Kim Byrnes and Erica Asselin, NESST Mentoring Moms, presented to 60 summit participants that included Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, representatives from DCF, and providers of support to mothers who are battling or in recovery from substance use disorder and/or whose babies were born substance exposed.

The purpose of the summit was to connect with providers and discuss what works when serving this population, where there are gaps in service, and how to establish an ongoing collaborative to better serve this vulnerable population. Groups of conference attendees met to discuss essential questions regarding obstacles to providing coordinated care to these families and to identify services that are already being provided or need to be established in the future.

Questions discussed included:

  • What, in your experience, are some of the obstacles to providing a tightly coordinated system of support for families with substance use disorders and substance exposed newborns?
  • Are there ways your institution or agency has begun to address these obstacles? Are there resources you'd like to share with the group?
  • What are some of the services that are working well for families with substance use disorders and substance exposed newborns?
  • How do we help families access them? How did you learn about them?
  • What's missing? Are there tools, programs, and service areas that are particularly lacking? Which gaps should take priority?

NESST staff served as facilitators for these small group discussions. The excitement in the room was palpable and the commitment to advancing the care of families NESST serves was undeniable. I am excited to be a part of this collaborative and to continue the work of the summit with Project NESST.

Jennifer Meyerhardt has been a staff member at the Center for Early Relationship Support of JF&CS since 2000. Prior to becoming part of the Project NESST team she supervised the JF&CS Vulnerable Families Team, coordinated the CERS Needham Visiting Momsvolunteer group, and was a mental health consultant at Horizons for Homeless Children. She is currently the Mentoring Mom Supervisor and Clinician with Project NESST.