Improving Care for Opioid-exposed Newborns (ICON)

Baby looking at self in mirrorThe ICON project partners with the Vermont Department of Health and The University of Vermont Children's Hospital to improve health outcomes for opioid-exposed newborns. Improved health outcomes are achieved by provision of educational sessions on up-to-date recommendations and guidelines to health care professionals who provide care for opioid-dependent pregnant women and their infants.

The project also maintains a maternal and newborn population-focused database for tracking process and outcome measures. This data is used to identify gaps in care and systems related resources; the project addresses these gaps through quality improvement initiatives, focused on enhanced care processes and systems’ changes.

ICON Objectives

  • Improve quality of prenatal and postnatal care for opioid-dependent pregnant women and opioid-exposed infants.
  • Improve availability, access, efficiency, and coordination of care services for women to connect them with substance abuse treatment providers, newborn care, and resources to support and achieve a healthy family.
  • Provide support to health care professional who care for opioid-dependent, pregnant women and their infants and improve systems for implementation of current guidelines and best practice recommendations for care.


ICON Accomplishments

  • Provision of support and guidance for the Vermont Plan of Safe Care (POSC) with the Vermont Department of Health Division of Maternal and Child Health and the Department for Children and Families.


  • Collaboration for the statewide adoption of DCF CAPTA notifications for substance exposure in utero as outlined in Federal CARA (Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act) including engagement for planning and development of a revised Plan of Safe Care (POSC) and the development of a POSC supportive structure to assist providers in the state.


  • Collaboration with Vermont Regional Perinatal Health Project and Obstetrical Outreach to improve collaboration, communication, and streamlining of communication to community birth hospital nurse managers and other stakeholders.


  • Collaboration with the University of Vermont Medical Center Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine for the development of educational sessions for providers on urine drug testing and interpretation.


  • Provided support and guidance for Vermont community hospitals implementing the Eating, Sleeping, Consoling (ESC) care tool for symptom assessment of opioid-exposed newborns including NNEPQIN data collection and collaboration with IDeA States Pediatric Network ESC trial.


  • Regional collaboration with neighboring states via Northern New England Perinatal Quality Improvement Network (NNEPQIN).


  • National engagement in ASTHO Opioid Use Disorder, Maternal Outcomes, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Initiative (OMNI) Learning Community.


Michelle Shepard, MD, PhD, and Lead Faculty

Julie Parent, MSW, Project Director

Avery Rasmussen, Data Manager

Angela Zinno, MA, Project Coordinator