(WPRI) — Opioid addiction is an epidemic hitting Southeastern Massachusetts particularly hard.

It’s an illness and that’s how it’s being approached especially towards women who are struggling with addiction while pregnant.

The “New Beginnings” program through Southcoast Health began helping these women and babies in 2016 and has just recently received a grant from the state to expand their reach to help mothers in need.

The program provides support and access to an array of services for these moms and babies in the New Bedford and Fall River area.

According to the latest data from the state, in 2017, Southeastern Massachusetts had the second-highest percentage of women who were pregnant and addicted to opioids. The region was second worse in women getting adequate treatment while pregnant and addicted to opioids.

“They can go to rehab, they can be in an in-patient facility, they can go to an outpatient program, there are medications that they can take during the pregnancy that’s safe for mom and baby, and it’s actually better for mom and baby that they’re in a program while she’s pregnant. And her participating in outpatient care services because it shows that she really wants to stay with her baby together,” Kim Pina, the nurse manager at St. Luke’s Family-Centered Unit said.

The first few months at home are filled with pediatrician appointments but Postpartum Care Coordinator Lauren Sousa pointed out that those drop off over time and moms are likely to relapse between seven and 12 months after giving birth.

“There’s a gap between that six-to-nine-month period, so we wonder if that has anything to do with it. If moms are getting less frequent support of services, maybe that’s why that period is really challenging, so we want to make sure we’re really connected with those moms during that time,” she said.

Sousa is in charge of connecting these women with resources in the community, whether that’s access to housing or with recovery coaches like Suzanne Gomez at High Point Treatment Centers.

“Identifying those resources, those people to call out to when you’re stressed or worried or just having a hard time but also building those relationships with things are good,” Gomez said.

Gomez says there is a support system if a situation gets tough again and more help will be on the way in the form of a grant from the state.

“It was a competitive selection process, so we’re happy that they’ve decided to work with us and help us expand our program,” Director of Community Benefits at Southcoast Health Rachel Davis said.

Starting July 1, the grant allows for a 21-month program in which New Beginnings can hire a specialist to expand their reach into the community, with providers and agencies.

In the past year, New Beginnings has seen more moms able to bring their babies home with them from the hospital.