Addressing Opioid Use in Pregnancy: Conversations and Next Steps in Blackfeet


Along with the rest of the United States, the Blackfeet Tribe has experienced an alarming rise in the use of opioids. To address the issue of opioid use in pregnancy, the Blackfeet Tribe recently gathered Tribal leaders, community members, and public health experts from across the country to explore how they can work together to best support good health in mothers and babies.

The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council – Tribal Epidemiology Center, with consultation from Boston University and in partnership with Montana Healthcare Foundation, coordinated with Blackfeet Tribal leaders to arrange the conference.  Topics included strategies that the Blackfeet community is taking to destigmatize drug use, ideas for outpatient treatment of opioid use from the Lummi Tribe of Washington and Project RESPECT of Boston Medical Center, and integrating Blackfeet cultural healing practices into the care approach.

Click here to see the full agenda from the conference.

RMTEC logoRMTLC-logo MTHCF logo    blackfeet        bia logo

From the content of the conference conversations and feedback, we are working with stakeholders on a strategic plan for moving forward.

You can view the final conference report by clicking here!



Meet our emcee and conference coordinator!

 Nikki face no hubby

Julia “Nikki” Hannon, M.Ed., is the Student Support Coordinator for BPS’ Alternative Education Department and a descendant of Blackfeet and Little Shell tribes. She serves as a school counselor for Native American students at risk of dropping out of high school and works to support pregnant and parenting teen students to pursue their education.

Click here to read an article that Nikki wrote for the Blackfeet Tribal Health Newsletter in August 2016.






Highlights from the Conference

ernest gray

Ernest “Joe” Gray MD, Clinical Director at the Blackfeet Community Hospital

“Over 50% of our babies born in Blackfeet Community Hospital have been exposed to illicit substances”.  This statistic has risen at an alarming rate over the past six years and there is no sign of the issue resolving on its own.



bill old chief

William “Bill” Old Chief (Blackfeet), former Blackfeet Tribal Business Councilman

“The drug epidemic is our modern-day small pox. We had no time to resolve our grief then, and we are again enduring unresolved grief as we lose our people to these substances. We have had no chance to heal.”





harry barnes

Harry R. Barnes (Blackfeet), “Iss tsee tsee mahn” “One who carries the flame,” Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council

“This is a multi-pronged problem that will require a multi-pronged solution.”





tara peterson

Tara Peterson, RN (Blackfeet)

“We have to continue to reach out to the community to destigmatize this issue. As long as people think they will get into trouble when they confide in us, then we will not be able to help them.”

Click here to see Tara’s presentation.



mary ellen laframboise

Mary Ellen LaFromboise, Director for the Blackfeet Tribe Child and Family Service in Browning

“There is a difficulty of change in the absence of traditional community living. We used to put the child in the center. We were “child-centered”. At some point this was replaced by “inside” thinking, that puts the child on the outside. We need family-focused treatment.”



dr saia

Kelley Saia, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine and Director of Project RESPECT, Substance Use Disorder in Pregnancy Treatment Clinic at Boston Medical Center

“The goal of Medication Assisted Therapy is to find a dose that she can live happily on and sustain that treatment indefinitely. There is no evidence to support that it is necessary to taper or detox from opioids after pregnancy.”

Click here to see Dr. Saia’s presentation.

shanley nicolai

Shanley Nicolai, Lead Clinician for the Wrapped in Hope Project,  Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Licensed Addictions Counselorwrapped in hope logo shanley

Shanley talked about Wrapped in Hope and her work with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.  She understands how important sobriety and recovery can be for prenatal and neonatal health and is excited to be able to provide therapeutic, client-centered services to these vulnerable and important members of the community.

Click here to see Shanley’s presentation.



Dyani Bingham (Assiniboine / Blackfeet / Metis) Project Director for the TRAC Peer to Peer Recovery Support program at Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council

Ms. Bingham has a background in public health, tourism, native art marketing and development, media relations, historic preservation, tribal policy, peer to peer recovery support, obesity prevention, physical activity promotion, breast and cervical health, and commercial tobacco use prevention.

Click here to see Dyani’s presentation.


mark kaneta

Mark Kaneta MD, neonatologist and the current Medical Director of the NICU at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.

Dr. Kaneta is a third generation Hawaiian, completed his pediatric and neonatal training in Indiana, and has lived in Missoula and Kalispell for 16 years.




adam kartman

Adam Kartman, MD, Medical Director at Lummi Healing Spirit OTP, a tribally owned and operated clinic in Washington state.

“A lot of places that offer Medication Assisted Therapy for opioids don’t want people hanging around. But, we do. We offer space for people to craft, visit, and build a relationship with us at the clinic.”



Lt. Commander Jenna Meyer, Public Health Advisor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support

“A community-based problem requires a community-based response. We’re tackling this head on in Kentucky, and are excited to share what we’ve learned with other communities as they work on this issue.”

Click here to see Lt. Commander Meyer’s presentation.


Please click here to see bios for all the speakers at this conference.



Want to learn more about opioids and pregnancy?  Check out the resources below.

2015 Journal of Obstetric Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing cover image“Criminalization of Pregnant Women with Substance Use Disorders”, Official Position Statement of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses.

SAMHSA RMTEC opioid conf cover image“A Collaborative Approach to the Treatment of Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorders: Practice and Policy Considerations for Child Welfare, Collaborating Medical, and Service Providers”, a report from SAMHSA
committee opinion opioi abuse dependence and addiction in pregnancy cover image
“Opioid Use, Dependance and Addiction in Pregnancy”, an opinion from the Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women and the American Society of Addiction Medicine


















Collaborators and Planners


anne face

Anne Merewood, MPH, PhD

Boston University for RMTEC




kirsten face

Kirsten Krane, MS-MPH, RDN

Boston University for RMTEC





mike face

Mike Andreini

RMTEC Director