Medical leaders across Chautauqua County kicked off a new drug intervention program Thursday designed to help pregnant women and their children.

"So really the goal of early identification and early appropriate interventions is what we're looking at," said Leanna Luka-Conley, Chautauqua County Adult, Children and Family Services deputy commissioner.

What You Need To Know

  • Chautauqua is the first county in the state to roll out this life-saving initiative

  • SART is designed to help pregnant women and young children

  • The initiative is expected to save the county millions in medical and special education costs

Chautauqua County's Leadership Institute virtually kicked off its Chautauqua Screening, Assessment, Referral and Treatment, or SART initiative Thursday.

Leaders say SART was developed, in part, to treat women who are pregnant or thinking about it, and at the same time are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

"Our hope is that we will reduction rates of fetal death, pre-term delivery, low birth weight, NICU stays, family stability," said Luka-Conley.

"If we develop this type of system, we're going to save lives. In this time of the pandemic, the need for this SART system is greater than ever," said Dr. Ira Chasnoff, University of Illinois College of Medicine professor of clinical pediatrics.

Leaders say the number of local babies born from addicted moms is five times higher than the state average and the highest in Western New York. And the number of pregnant women testing positive for drugs at the time of delivery has gone up 53 percent.

Keynote speaker Chasnoff says getting moms into early treatment can greatly improve their child's brain development and performance in school.

"That's pretty exciting. The earlier we can identify the child and get them appropriate services the better they're going to do. We can raise the IQ's of children in our community," said Chasnoff.

"Couldn't be more excited. Stronger futures start with consistent universal screening, and which we were lacking," said Dr. Tariq Khan of Southern Tier Pediatrics.

Local pediatricians like Khan are now working to get families the help they need, and will soon start assessing those at-risk children ages five and under. 

"Consistently through screenings in their pediatricians or family doctors offices to monitor their development, physical and mental," said Khan.

Leaders say the initiative could save the county up to $25 million in medical and special education costs.

A link to the group's new website can be found here.