Kentucky health insurers give $750,000 to Louisville public-benefit firm to improve care for opioid-exposed infants in rural Kentucky

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The Kentucky Association of Health Plans, the trade group for companies selling health insurance in Kentucky, has given $750,000 to Nascend, a Louisvile-based public-benefit corporation that works to help infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome, caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy.

The KAHP grant will allow Nascend to extend its certification program to rural hospitals in Kentucky, to help standardize and improve care for opioid-exposed infants across the state, a news release said.

“Kentucky’s Medicaid managed-care organizations are proud to partner with Nascend . . . to show demonstrable results by eliminating care gaps and improving health outcomes for mothers and babies,” KAHP Vice President of External Affairs Katherine Kington North said in the release.

The NAS certification program is designed to help health-care providers treat substance-exposed infants more effectively and efficiently, which ultimately leads to better outcomes for the children and families as well as savings to the health care system, the release said.

Dr. K. Dawn Forbes, founder and CEO of Nascend, said her team of neonatologists is excited about the impact that this grant will have across the state, particularly in rural areas.

“We are going to be able to address a lack of standardized care guidelines, outdated and ineffective infant assessment tools, overused medication treatment, poor parental engagement, and insufficient nutrition,” Forbes said in the release. “This is a game-changer, and we appreciate Kentucky health plans for being laser-focused on improving the social determinants of health.”

Kentucky has been particularly affected by the opioid epidemic, with NAS rates reaching 19.4 per 1,000 infants, with a peak rate of 77 per 1,000 infants in the state’s Appalachian region. The national average is only 7 per 1,000.

The release says the KAHP grant will “help decrease the need to transfer infants to facilities in urban areas, better maintain patient-provider relationships, reduce family stress, and retain care and resources locally while also contributing to an estimated cost savings of at least $2.83 million annually by serving a minimum of 500 infants per year at full implementation.”

Nascend says it has trained more than 7,000 health-care providers in 38 states and improved the lives of more than 1.6 million infants. The company was recognized this year as a “Top 10 Health Education Services Provider” by Healthcare Business Review, and received the “Top Social Impact Company Award” at the 2023 Canopy Annual Good Business Summit for “aligning purpose and value with community impact,” a news release said.

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