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FHA leads initiative to reduce maternal mortality, with a focus on drug overdoses


A committee that analyzes maternal deaths in the state reported that the pregnancy-related fatalities have increased every year since 2016, with overdoses as a major contributor.

With a focus on drug overdose deaths, the Florida Hospital Association is issuing a call to action to increase awareness of the steps hospitals can take to address maternal mortality.

In March, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its 2021 report on maternal mortality that showed that the number of patients who died during pregnancy or shortly after has risen 40%.

Florida’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, which analyzes maternal deaths in the state, reported that the pregnancy-related mortality rate has increased every year since 2016.

Recently, the committee identified drug overdoses as a major contributor to deaths in women before and soon after giving birth. More women die from drug-related deaths in Florida than all maternal complications combined.

“For years, Florida’s hospitals have been on the front lines of caring for pregnant women and investing in education, process improvement, and best practices implementation to reduce preventable maternal deaths,” said Mary Mayhew, the FHA's president and CEO. “Today, with drug overdoses as a significant cause of maternal deaths, hospitals again are leading partners in the important work to prevent overdoses and ensure access to appropriate interventions and treatment.”

As part of the initiative, FHA will provide educational resources, best practices, ongoing training, and sharing best practices already in place around the state.

While the focus will be on all causes of maternal death, the initial focus will be preventing overdose deaths and training emergency departments to recognize possible signs and symptoms for all causes of maternal death.

Throughout the next 12 months, the association work with hospitals on various strategies, such as:

  • Training hospital emergency department on signs and symptoms to prevent maternal deaths.
  • Implementing the evidence-based Screening, Brief Interventio, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) model for all pregnant people.
  • Providing naloxone kits before discharge for pregnant women screening positive for opioid use disorder. Implementing strategies from the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative's Opioid Recovery Effort and their other initiatives focused on maternal health.
  • Developing plans of safe care, including referrals to Healthy Start and Early Steps at the Florida Department of Health.
  • Strategies to address other causes of maternal deaths.

“One maternal death is one too many. That is why the FHA board of trustees issued this call to action,” said R.D. Williams, CEO of Clewiston's Hendry Regional Medical Center and chair of the FHA Quality and Patient Safety Committee. “Florida hospitals have a legacy of leadership on a number of public health issues, and reducing preventable maternal deaths is no exception.”

FHA, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of state hospitals, is partnering with the state Department of Health, Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative, Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Children and Families to provide the latest strategies, support and data to address the issue.

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