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CHCS recognized for improving care for opioid-exposed infants and families

Community HealthCare System has been awarded a Center of Excellence in Education and Training for Infants and Families Affected by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome by Vermont Oxford Network, or VON. 

The award recognizes multidisciplinary care teams for completing training to care for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is drug withdrawal syndrome experienced by infants exposed to opioids while in utero. Infants born with NAS are more likely to have respiratory complications, feeding difficulty, low birthweights, and extended hospital stays.

Community HealthCare System is one of the 31 hospitals in the state that achieved the excellence designation from VON.

VON provided the training in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Kansas Perinatal Quality Collaborative in an effort to standardize care policies. The collaborative approach to universal training included rapid-cycle distribution of current evidence-based practices to the teams engaged in caring for substance-exposed infants and families. This approach has been proven to reduce length of hospital stay and period of drug treatments for affected babies while also helping families.

Katie Kufahl, registered nurse and CHCS Birth Center manager, said she and 13 colleagues completed many hours of online training and evaluations and worked to implement new policies on how to help babies whose mothers used methamphetamines or opioids eat, sleep, and be consoled.

“We learned more about the behavior of babies with NAS, where to direct mothers to go for help, and how to make sure drug users can breastfeed safely,” Kufahl said.

The VON training included information to help care teams remain non-judgmental and help the mom be a good parent and understand how their babies could be affected by drug use.

“We learned about being compassionate with these moms. Unless you’ve walked a day in their shoes, you don’t know what you would have done in your life,” Kufahl said.

More than 250 centers nationwide have completed VON’s universal training for NAS, but Kansas is only the second statewide collaborative to achieve the Excellence in Education and Training distinction.

“Congratulations to all the care teams across the state of Kansas who have shown how dedicated the state is to caring for this vulnerable population affected by the national opioid epidemic,” said Jeffrey Horbar, Chief Executive and Scientific Officer of VON.

CHCS Chief Nursing Office Mindy Olberding said the Center of Excellence is a welcome recognition of the Birth Center’s dedication to quality care.

“Katie and our providers and Birth Center team do everything they can to make sure babies and families get the best possible start, and we’re proud to offer compassionate and evidence-based care for babies affected by NAS,” Olberding said. 

This is the second honor the Birth Center has received recently. In late October, the Kansas Newborn Screening Program recognized CHCS for meeting and exceeding screening goals for newborns.


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