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Officials announce ‘gamechanger’ grant for opioid-exposed babies in KY


Two health organizations have announced a partnership to improve care for opioid-exposed infants in the Commonwealth.

NASCEND is a certified B-Corp that aims to improve outcomes for babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Last month, they received a grant from the Kentucky Association of Health Plans totaling $750,000. Officials said they’ll use the money to train hospitals to treat those babies without relying too heavily on opioids.

Dr. Dawn Forbes is a neonatologist, as well as the founder and CEO of NASCEND.

“We’re very grateful for the grant, but we’re also grateful for the partnership that we’re going to have with this organization long-term. It is a three-year grant, it will be $250,000 each year, and we will be using that money to train up to ten hospitals,” Forbes said. “We’ve already identified a partnership in Kentucky that will potentially allow us to take the first money we receive to train the first five hospitals, potentially as early as January.”

The hospitals participating in the program have not yet been announced. Dr. Forbes said Kentucky’s incidence rate for opioid-exposed babies is well over the national average, so making sure providers and institutions know how to treat them is vital.

“The more attention that we can bring to this situation, and to this problem and this diagnosis, the more all kinds of people are going be able to, you know, become aware and hopefully start to think about how we can improve these outcomes,” she said. “It’s a big problem in Kentucky, it’s at the heart of it, and it’s definitely one of the top five most impacted states with opioid use, all the way to the newborn babies.”

Forbes said with the help of her organization’s NAS Certification Program, the state can reduce the need for opiate treatments for newborns with NAS, as well as a reduction in the amount of time it takes to treat those infants.