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Nicole Jackson (center), a registered nurse, was recently hired to be the coordinator of Memorial Hospital’s A New Life prenatal program. She is seen with medical staff of Memorial Hospital’s Women’s Health and Family Birthing departments which provide services to women and babies enrolled in A New Life with her (from left): Dr. Lauren Frye, Leigh Copsey, RN; Dr. Jennifer Labudde; and Dr. Marni Madnick. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONWAY — With news about coronavirus, relief packages and vaccines dominating daily conversations, issues such as the opioid epidemic were moved to the background. Also fading from view are the many programs and services that continue to address these health challenges.

Memorial Hospital’s A New Life program adapted during the pandemic and continues to help pregnant women move on from opioid misuse. The program ensures that women receive prenatal care and physician pharmacologic management of opioid dependence to ensure their health. Women enrolled in the program also receive services to support them on their journey to recovery and to becoming the best parents they can be.

“The pandemic, with all its challenges, does afford opportunities to rethink programs and their operations,” said Lawrence Carbonaro, senior director of operations at Memorial Hospital. “During this time, we were able to reimagine the A New Life program and discover ways to improve the services to the women who are enrolled.”

Through A New Life, complementary therapies are provided to support mental health, provide pregnancy education, and offer case management services. Group counseling sessions build peer relationships and also help participants support one another. A registered nurse leads group education on topics related to pregnancy, well-being and infant care. Social work case management services are provided to support the women with needs such as housing or transportation.

As with every organization, 2020 brought new challenges to Memorial Hospital and its A New Life program due to the pandemic. Providers continued medication-assisted treatment, prenatal and maternal care and counsel to women enrolled in the program. Group activities and socialization, though were suspended at first before moving to virtual delivery.

To address those challenges, Memorial hired a coordinator dedicated to the A New Life program.

“We hired Nicole Jackson, registered nurse, to be our A New Life coordinator,” said Carbonaro. “Jackson is experienced in obstetrics. She will focus on the needs of the women, manage the A New Life program and do outreach.”

These functions were previously managed part-time by multiple people with multiple jobs and levels of experience.

“This move will improve the efficiency of the program while also providing a consistent experience for the women in the program,” he says.

About 40 women and their families have been helped through A New Life. While this number is not huge, Jackson says, “The impact on lives and communities has been profound. Women have found a judgment-free program where they feel supported. They have been able to move on, and become successful mothers, members of healthy families and contributing community members.”

Carbonaro shared the words of a past participant: “Not only has this program provided me a safe way to get off drugs, but it has given me a whole new outlook on life. I realize now I am not alone in my struggle and that my past doesn’t define who I am or who I can become. I have found a type of support in this program which I thought was impossible.”

The program is supported by donors including major support from the Thomas D. Shaffner Charitable Foundation.

A local resident who helped manage and grow Dearborn Tubular Products in Fryeburg, Shaffner passed away in October of 2016 but left a legacy of support through his foundation which supports drug and alcohol recovery services among other programs.

Women who are interested in enrolling in the program are encouraged to contact Women’s Health at (603) 356-9355. Additional information can be found at memorialhospitalnh.org/newlife.

Those interested in supporting A New Life, go to memorialhospitalnh.org/ways-to-give.

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