The Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre says its pregnancy and addiction program has significantly reduced the number of babies born with drug dependency.

The Sioux Lookout hospital's chief of obstetrics, Dr. Joseph Dooley, says more services like these are needed in the region, and he applauds the start of a new program in Thunder Bay offering prenatal care along with methadone treatment.

“I think it's a very important part of the care ... to recognize ... that these are families that are struggling with drug addiction,” he said.

Joseph Dooley

Dr. Joseph Dooley, chief of obstetrics, with the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre. The health centre's pregnancy and addiction program serves women from many northern First Nations. (Supplied)

“One of the things I think that has helped us is that our program — and all of the people working in it — are very supportive of the families and helping work with them to get away from their addictions."

Dooley said Sioux Lookout started its program a few years ago, when opiate addiction was going up in northern communities.

"We started noticing this [to be] a problem five to six years ago ... clearly observing babies going through withdrawal and recognizing that we had a population that were having increasing difficulties with narcotic usage,” Dooley said.

His team works with about 150 pregnant women with addictions, each year. They come to Sioux Lookout regularly for appointments, but receive ongoing treatment in their health centres back in their community. 

Pregnancy Blood Clots

Workers with the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre's pregnancy and addiction program hope to collaborate with a new Thunder Bay program to address the addiction problem across the northwest. (Andrew Shurtleff/Associated Press)

The program — which uses controlled morphine to help wean pregnant women off other narcotics while providing prenatal care — has significantly reduced the number of babies born addicted to opiates, he said. Using morphine rather than methadone is a better option for the Sioux Lookout program, as methadone is not available in most of the remote communities. 

Dooley added he hopes to collaborate with the new Thunder Bay program to address the addiction problem across the northwest.