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State Summit Aims to Break Stigma and Build Support to Aid Pregnant Women with Substance Use Disorders and Protect Families

Monday, March 11, 2024

Leaders and visionaries across Oklahoma gathered during a two-day summit at the Oklahoma History Center to promote prevention, alternatives to incarceration, family preservation and treatment. Co-sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and ODMHSAS, the event united several state agencies, treatment providers, advocates and criminal justice experts in a single mission.

The summit promoted collaboration, sharing policies and best practices. It offered a unique opportunity for networking, learning and establishing partnerships aimed at driving positive change in our communities. Leaders discussed the following goals:

  • Raise awareness of and reduce the stigma associated with the circumstances and needs of pregnant and parenting women with substance use disorders and their involvement in multiple social service systems.

  • Identify effective strategies in promoting prevention, recovery and family preservation.  

  • Increase motivation for people to seek treatment and services therefore reducing the potential of individuals who are pregnant, post-partum or had a miscarriage and have been exposed to, used or misused substances entering into the criminal and/or child welfare systems. 

  • Focus on the five points of intervention (pre-pregnancy, prenatal, neonatal/post-natal, birth and early childhood), develop initial action plans for effective and innovative policies, practices and programs to serve the needs of pregnant women with substance use disorders to improve their well-being and that of their children and families and the communities in which they live.


“At this summit, partnerships and ideas emerged that will benefit generations of Oklahomans,” said Commissioner of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Allie Friesen. “Together, we're reshaping the dialogue, removing barriers and helping families recover and stay connected to each other."

Dr. Erin Maher, Co-Principal Investigator of OU’s Parent Child Assistance Program (PCAP) project, emphasized the significance of the summit, stating, "This summit is a great example of a strong university and public agency partnership, designed to get people together in a room who all have a stake in improving the well-being of children and families affected by substance use. We all share an interest in preserving families, keeping children safe and reducing further harm and damage. We do that by listening to different perspectives, grounding ourselves in data and research, and being willing to take steps towards better outcomes. We are also going to listen to people who have been directly impacted by this issue in their recovery and hear what recommendations they have for policy, program and practice change.”

The success of the summit was made possible by the collaborative efforts of  Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, the Court Improvement Program, the Oklahoma Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative, the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Oklahoma Department of Human Services and many others.

For more information about the Parent Child Assistance Program project, please visit

ODMHSAS Communications