NYC unveils plan for substance use treatment center at Lincoln to combat maternal mortality in South Bronx

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The city on Tuesday announced a plan to construct a new substance use treatment center for pregnant and postpartum people at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the South Bronx — which officials hope will reduce the maternal mortality rate in the borough.  

The $8 million, 6,500-square-foot space is designed to serve around 200 families each year, representing a significant step toward the city’s goal of decreasing Black maternal mortality by 10% by 2030, according to the mayor’s office. 

“This is a critical moment for women’s health in New York City and across the country,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in the announcement on March 26. “Addiction and substance use disorder doesn’t discriminate, and overdoses are a leading cause of deaths in pregnant and postpartum women in New York City, affecting not only the new parent, but also their family and loved ones.” 

The new center is a component of the mayor’s “Women Forward NYC” initiative that he announced earlier this year, which encompasses a $43 million investment into gender equity resources and programming citywide. Some of that money — a combination of city dollars, partnerships from private, public and educational entities, and federal funds — is supposed to address areas such as professional development, sexual and reproductive healthcare, gender-based violence, housing, and more for women and gender expansive folks.

Adams said in the announcement that he’s proud of his administration’s work to “boost birth equity,” touting the expansion of the city’s doula program and other legislative packages aimed at addressing maternal health outcomes. 

“Today’s announcement of the Family Substance Use Disorder clinic coming to NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln is a continuation of that critical work,” the mayor said. “Our children are our most precious resource and by investing in them and their families from the start, we’ll build a safer and healthier city for generations to come.”

The Bronx continues to see higher maternal mortality rates, which disproportionately affect Black and brown pregnant people, than other boroughs in the city. The Bronx also suffers from high infant mortality rates, and the data has prompted urgent conversations among elected officials about how to best handle the crisis. 

According to city health data, the Bronx had the highest number of pregnancy-associated deaths in 2020 — 16 out of 46 citywide, with there being 14 deaths in Brooklyn, 11 in Queens, three in Manhattan, and two on Staten Island. According to the National Library of Medicine, pregnancy-associated death is attributable to a condition that is unaffected by the pregnancy and occurs within one year of the pregnancy. That’s different from a pregnancy-related death — for which the Bronx also had the highest citywide in 2020, at nine deaths.

The city hopes to offer pregnant people and parents who struggle with substance use disorder a “safe and supportive place to access prenatal and postnatal care, addiction medicine, and behavioral health care.” Officials see the center as a way to not only address maternal mortality, but also the borough’s addiction and opioid crisis. 

“With overdose a leading cause of Black maternal deaths, and the tragic ripple effects, stigma-free access to substance use disorder and mental health treatment for expecting families is a must,” said NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan in the announcement. “We celebrate the opening of NYC Health + Hospital’s first family substance use disorder clinic and hope it will lead to healthier, stronger families and communities.”

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