New Jersey Department of Health

PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 9, 2018

Shereef Elnahal

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

DOH Launches Awareness Campaign to Reduce Infant Exposure to Opioids

The Department of Health today launched an awareness campaign aimed at reducing opioid dependency in pregnant women and their newborns.


Nationally and in New Jersey there has been a rise in newborns diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which occurs in newborns exposed to alcohol and drugs while in the mother’s womb. Since 2008, cases of NAS in New Jersey have doubled to 685 babies diagnosed in 2016.


“Babies that are exposed to drugs in the womb are at risk of prematurity, birth defects and withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and vomiting,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “By encouraging pregnant women to seek help, their addiction can be treated to reduce the impact to their unborn child.”


The campaign will include distribution of awareness materials, targeted corner store and bus advertising, promoted social media, a new robust website ( with information and resources about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and outreach to community partners and healthcare providers.


Downloadable campaign posters in English and Spanish are being shared statewide with county and local health departments, hospitals, community health centers, healthcare providers, WIC offices, maternal and child health partners and others that serve women of childbearing age.


The campaign aims to reach women of child-bearing age that are addicted or dependent on prescription pain killers as well as illicit drugs such as heroin.

Data from the New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System (NJSAMS) 2015 report reflects the most common substances used by New Jersey’s pregnant women: heroin (59.8%) other opiates (9.7%); marijuana (13.5%); and alcohol (9.3%).


Because health care providers play a key role in identifying women at risk for substance abuse, health leaders in the state have joined Commissioner Elnahal in co-signing a letter to providers promoting the campaign. The letter was signed by the Commissioner and includes the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey Primary Care Association; the Maternal and Child Health Consortia: the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ, and the Southern Jersey Perinatal Cooperative.


“Some women don’t realize that they can receive medication-assisted treatment while pregnant to help them and their neonates become opioid free,” Commissioner Elnahal said. “There is no reason for these babies and their mothers to remain dependent.”


The Department of Health is asking partners to share our prevention messages through social media, by displaying posters and referring individuals to the new website.


In 2014, New Jersey was awarded a technical assistance opportunity through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)-supported National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) to address the multi-faceted problems of NAS.

In-Depth Technical Assistance (IDTA) for Substance Exposed Infants (SEI) and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) aims to develop practices/guidelines that address the entire spectrum of NAS and SEI from pre-pregnancy, prevention, early intervention, assessment and treatment, postpartum and early childhood.

New Jersey's IDTA is providing assistance to strengthen collaboration across child welfare, addiction treatment, medical providers, and other stakeholders to improve the safety, health, and well-being of SEI, and the recovery of pregnant and parenting women and their families.

New Jersey was awarded regionalized contracts for the Maternal Wrap Around Program (M-WRAP) Program, which combines intensive case management and recovery support services for opioid dependent pregnant women.  Pregnant women with an opioid use disorder are eligible for M-WRAP services through pregnancy and up to one year after the birth of the child.

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