March of Dimes awards grant to School’s Perinatal Substance Use Project

April 06, 2009
Pregnant women who are using drugs and/or alcohol soon will have additional help abstaining from substances that could be harmful to both their babies and themselves, thanks to a community grant to the Perinatal Substance Use Project, part of the North Carolina Family Health Resource Line, a project in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The grant, provided by the March of Dimes’ North Carolina Chapter, will fund a baseline assessment of the current capacity of local health departments throughout the state to address substance use by pregnant women and new mothers. The assessment will be used by the Perinatal Substance Use Project and the N.C. Division of Public Health (Women’s Health Branch) to develop additional resources, including a perinatal substance use manual and training, to support local health departments in addressing the problem.

Other collaborators on the project include the N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, as well as local health departments and substance abuse treatment providers.

The initial assessment will determine the kinds of assistance currently provided by the state of North Carolina to help local health departments address drug and alcohol use by pregnant women. It also will evaluate the kinds of additional training, interventions and referrals that are needed.

Laura Louison, MSW, MSPH

Laura Louison, MSW, MSPH

“In clinics and health departments, we have seen over and over the value even brief interventions have on getting pregnant women to abstain or reduce their use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy,” said Laura Louison, MSW, MSPH, the perinatal substance use specialist at the N.C. Family Health Resource Line.

“There’s a significant value – both in health care costs and in the health of mother and child – to screening and educating pregnant women, then following up with them,” Louison says.

Despite the value, she says, nearly 25% percent of North Carolina women say they receive no information from a prenatal care provides about how alcohol use or drug use might affect their babies.

Dr. Jonathan Kotch

Dr. Jonathan Kotch

The Perinatal Substance Use Project, led by principal investigator Jonathan Kotch, MD, professor of maternal and child health at UNC, is a joint effort with the North Carolina Division of Mental Health’s Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services and the North Carolina Division of Public Health’s Women’s Health Branch.

The project’s purpose is to facilitate access to substance abuse treatment throughout North Carolina for women who are pregnant or parenting.


For more information, see or call 1-800-367-2229 (1-800-FOR BABY).

Note: Louison can be reached at or 919-807-3015.

Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7744 or