Master of Social Work Students Receive President's Research Impact Award at Graduate Research Exposition

Posted April 22, 2013

Master of Social Work students Leah Agren, Meagan Foss, Jennifer Koch, Alison Mitchell and their advisor Dr. Jennifer Middleton recently received the President’s Research Impact Award at the Graduate Research Exposition. The honor is awarded to the student(s) and advisor whose project best exemplifies the University of Maine mission cornerstones of teaching, research, scholarship, and outreach to the State of Maine. Their research, titled “What happens next? Exploring child protection outcomes in a cohort of opioid-exposed infants” aims to investigate what happens after an infant born with prenatal opioid-exposure is discharged from the hospital, from a child welfare system perspective. Their research is the first-ever attempt to share data between Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) and the State’s Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS). The team said of their work, “Maine has the highest rate of opioid addiction per capita in the nation and the impact of this epidemic is being felt throughout the greater-Bangor region. Of the 195 substance-exposed births recorded at EMMC in 2011, 175 involved opioid-exposure, representing a 27% increase in opioid-exposed births in just two years. Though the population of infants born with prenatal opioid-exposure in the greater-Bangor region is growing, very little is known about what happens after the infant leaves EMMC.” This study will determine how many of these infants had subsequent child protection cases opened in their first year of life, and will explore risk and protective factors associated with child protection services involvement. Findings from this community-engaged research project will inform local practice and policy efforts aimed at supporting one of our most vulnerable populations in the State of Maine. In addition to receiving the President’s Research Impact Award, project team members have been invited to present their work at the EMMC Pediatric Services meeting in June and to the Penquis Regional Linking Partnership, a 25-agency regional partnership collaborating to support substance-affected infants and their families in the Penquis region.