Multidisciplinary professionals already engaged in or hoping to learn more about Colorado Hospital Substance Exposed Newborns (CHoSEN) Collaborative’s efforts to increase consistency in implementation of best practice in the identification of and response to newborns prenatally exposed to substances convened virtually on October 19, 2021 to engage in shared learning and receive updates on work happening across the collaborative.

Dr. Susan Hwang kicked the day off by rooting in data on Colorado’s overdose-related mortality over the last 20 years, the international increase in perinatal mental health challenges during the pandemic, challenges in accessing substance use treatment experienced by Coloradans who need it, and the disparities that exist within this data. Reflecting on data around the spike in substance use and maternal mortality that occurs during the first year postpartum, Dr. Hwang invited the multidisciplinary professionals on the call to ask themselves:

What are we doing to support mothers, children, and families after birth? And why is it that substance use rates increase astronomically, and moreover, why is it that maternal mortality increases, not immediately after birth, but into the first year postpartum?

Dr. Susan Hwang

This question set the tone for participants, who all care for families impacted by substance use, to reflect on all of the work that needs to be done to better support families and to address the barriers to receiving the support that they deserve.

The day included vulnerable and inspiring stories about personal experiences with addiction and recovery from Colorado Public Radio’s Vic Vela and Dr. Robert Dietz. Vic Vela, Colorado Public Radio news host and host of the recovery podcast, “Back from Broken, openly shared his experiences and set the tone for the event with a message of hope:

There’s a reason I’m here and able to talk to you about very painful things. It’s because I got help. […] Don’t give up on yourself. Imagine the impossible. But it’s not as impossible as you might think.

Vic Vela

Colorado Public Radio News Host

Dr. Robert Dietz shed light on his own experiences and shared words of wisdom about addiction and recovery through his perspective as a physician, offering guidance on what healthcare professionals can do if they or a colleague they know is struggling with substance use.

In addition to these moving stories of personal experiences with substance use, the CHoSEN Collaborative was honored to be joined by Dr. Elizabeth Krans, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Pregnancy and Women’s Recovery Center at Magee-Womens Hospital, for the day’s clinical keynote presentation. Dr. Krans’ presentation included valuable information on the importance of using evidence-based practices in the care of pregnant individuals with substance use disorders and concrete examples of how to use them for a variety of topics, including substance use screening, medications for opioid use disorder, and sexual and reproductive health.

Updates on work happening within the CHoSEN Collaborative itself included:

Data, Funding and Policy/Multisystems Updates: 

  • Dr. Susan Hwang reviewed data related to CHoSEN Quality Improvement Collaborative’s key drivers through the third quarter of 2021.
  • Colorado Perinatal Care Quality Collaborative’s Jaime Cabrera shared updates on perinatal behavioral health related funding and projects, including the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Learning Collaborative, CHoSEN Quality Improvement Collaborative, Maternal Mental Health Framework & Collaborative, Data-driven Engagement of Families to Improve the NICU Experience in Colorado (DEFINE), and a Pregnant & Postpartum Intervention Pilot. 
  • Illuminate Colorado’s Jade Woodard shared updates on the systems changes in progress, including child welfare rulemaking around Plans of Safe Care and the revision to the Children’s Code that updates the definition of child abuse as it relates to substance use, implementation of relevant legislation that passed during the 2021 session, updates on implementation of existing programs, and funding investments from the opioid settlements and federal stimulus plans. 

CHoSEN Hospital Presentations:

  • CHoSEN QIC Perinatal Navigator Program: Dr. Kathi Wells shared updates and what’s coming next for the Kempe Center’s partnership with Denver Health on a Perinatal Navigator Program pilot. 
  • SCL Health: Navigating Substance Use Disorder as a System Initiative: Amy Dempsey presented on SCL Health’s efforts to implement universal education and screening of all pregnant and postpartum individuals for depression, anxiety, and substance use.
  • San Luis Valley Health Integrating Care for Women and Babies Grant: Lacrecia Smith presented on San Luis Valley Health’s efforts to provide pregnant individuals impacted by substance use disorders with holistic, coordinated care through an Integrating Care for Women and Babies grant. 

Missed the event or looking to refresh your memory of the day? Find the materials, recordings, and related opportunities to engage below.

Opportunities to Engage

If you are interested in getting more involved in CHoSEN, need a presentation for your stakeholders, have specific data needs, or would like to schedule a virtual site visit, please reach out to Susan Hwang at

To learn more about or get involved in any of these perinatal behavioral health related funding projects shared during the Data, Funding, and Policy/Multisystems update, reach out to

​To learn more about or get involved in any of this systems/policy work shared during the Data, Funding, and Policy/Multisystems update, or the implementation of the 2021-2022 Colorado SEN Steering Committee priority areas, contact Cassie Davis at

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