Healthy MOMS Case Manager Presents at U.S. Breastfeeding Committee Conference

Marcella Garvin, a case manager of the Healthy Maternal Opiate Medical Support program (MOMS) at The Wright Center for Community Health, recently made the presentation, “It Takes a Village: Utilizing a Collaborative Approach to Promote Breastfeeding Among Women with Substance Use Disorder,” at the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee Conference in June.

Garvin’s presentation focused on how the novel program educates mothers in recovery early in their pregnancies about the importance of breastfeeding their newborns. “Breastfeeding is strongly recommended for any new baby. However, women with substance use disorder have lower rates of breastfeeding. When a mother in recovery is utilizing medication as part of their treatment, babies can sometimes experience withdrawal symptoms,” said Garvin.

The Healthy MOMS program aims to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms through intensive case management. Part of the collaborative approach includes providing mothers with education about the importance of breastfeeding early in their pregnancy. “We have seen excellent results, improving our breastfeeding rate nearly 40% from the inception of the program. We have also seen that educating and providing mothers with support early in their pregnancy has resulted in better outcomes for their babies,” said Garvin.

Data from the program shows a lower incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in mothers who join the program more than 30 days prior to delivery and lower incidences or severity in mothers who are breastfeeding. NAS is a withdrawal syndrome that can occur in newborns exposed to certain substances, including opioids, during pregnancy.

Garvin joined The Wright Center for Community Health as a case manager for the Healthy MOMs Program in 2020.  In her role, she works closely with mothers working to overcome substance use disorder through recovery. 

Launched in 2018, the Healthy MOMS program has 140 mothers active in the program and has had 177 children born into the program, as of June 2022. The program takes a collaborative, holistic approach to treating mothers with substance use disorder. It aims to help pregnant women and new mothers overcome addiction and embrace a life in recovery. Participants are offered blanket services that include medication-assisted treatment and addiction services, counseling, primary health care, OB/GYN care, parenting tips, legal advice and a range of other support.

The program promotes the well-being of both mom and newborn, ideally engaging them in wrap-around services until the child turns two years old.

The Healthy MOMS program has served mothers as young as 14, but most are in their late 20s and 30s. Named after a program of the same name in Ohio, it was introduced in this region as a pilot program in two counties, with initial grant funding secured by the Lackawanna/ Susquehanna Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Today, it assists women in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. 

The nonprofit Maternal and Family Health Services Inc. and multiple area hospitals are among the many health care, social service and government agencies that power the program’s ongoing success.

For more information about the Healthy MOMS program, call 570-955-7821 or visit