Look Closer Campaign

Perinatal Substance Use

Tough times for Montana families are showing up in the form of substance dependence. In motherhood, this is referred to as perinatal substance use disorder. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease that affects a person’s brain chemistry, leading to an inability to control their use of a substance such as alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, or medications. There is no question that using alcohol and drugs when pregnant is harmful to a developing child. So, why is this happening and what can we do to help? 

Oftentimes, the reason for use is linked to pain and stress from childhood trauma and loss. These women are accustomed to loneliness and shame, feelings that are common in new motherhood. But our belief is that the opposite of addiction is connection.

We hope to change the paradigm and give providers the right language to use with moms struggling with substance use. When these moms seek care, meet them with compassion. Never underestimate the power of one kind interaction. It could change a life… maybe two.

Our Why

Rates are on the rise for drug overdose, alcoholic liver disease, and suicide. Referred to as diseases of despair, these conditions are often the result of feelings of hopelessness, believing that you don’t matter, anxiety, and pain from trauma. These diseases affect moms, too. Drug overdose and suicide combined are the leading cause of death in the year following childbirth for new moms. 

Depression is the number one complication of childbirth, and drug overdose and suicide combined are the leading cause of death in the year following childbirth for new moms.

Provider Resources

Training on the topic of perinatal mental health is available in Montana. Use the links below to access a few helpful recordings:

A study about opioid use disorder  (OUD) in Montana’s pregnant and postpartum women was funded by the Montana State Opioid Response (SOR) grant.

The Perinatal Harm Reduction Coalition produced a toolkit specific to serving pregnant people who use substances and their families.

A common hard reduction strategy is attending support groups. Talk to your patient about finding groups and peer support near them, including:

Maria Russell, LCSW, talks about changing the paradigm on how to care for pregnant women on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Watch her full interview here.

The Campaign

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies developed Look Closer, a public messaging campaign that is focused on decreasing the negative biases surrounding perinatal SUDs and increasing kindness and compassion to promote recovery.

This work was developed after a scan of current treatment options and messaging, as well as a series of focus groups engaging the target audience, including those with lived SUD experience. The final report, “Gathering the Voices of Perinatal Substance Use in Montana,” is available for reading here.

The images for this campaign can be seen on this page. The mothers featured in each image depict a different situation, including raising children in a tribal community or on a ranch, parenting as a young mother, serving in the military during motherhood, or raising many children at once. This campaign is visible around the state, with imagery targeted to the community where the posters are placed. The media buy includes the following outlets:

  • Montana Newspaper Association, featured in 38 digital newsletters
  • Off the Wall Advertising, which advertises in bathroom stalls at restaurants, bars, and casinos, as well as the Washington Grizzly Stadium and Bobcat Stadium
  • Parent Company Advertising, displaying digitally in newspapers in Billings, Missoula, Butte, and Helena
Interested in sharing these posters? Download the print-ready file below by right-clicking the image and selecting 'save.' If you have any issues with file types or quality, please reach out to us for assistance.

LIFTS Project

New motherhood is often isolating, but feelings of loneliness and shame are even more common for pregnant women battling substance use. Through the LIFTS project, HMHB aims to build community connections for people in the perinatal period. The LIFTS Magazine shares stories of Montana parenthood, allowing readers to connect over similar experiences. And once they’re ready for help, the LIFTS Online Resource Guide provides them with services and family-friendly events to find their community of support.