Drug-addicted babies up at some state hospitals
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some hospitals in West Virginia are seeing an increase in the number of babies born with drug addictions.
At Cabell Huntington Hospital one of 13 babies born are addicted to drugs, Dr. David Chaffin, director of the hospital's perinatal center, told the Charleston Daily Mail.
The rate is about the same at Charleston Area Medical Center, said Dr. Stefan Maxwell, a CAMC neonatologist.
At Thomas Memorial Hospital in Charleston, eight of 12 babies born during a recent weekend were addicted to drugs. That's higher than usual, but Director of Obstetrics Beth Hedrick said the number has increased.
"We are definitely seeing more,'' she said. "We're trying to figure it out with everybody else. Some of our babies are kept in a regular newborn nursery if they're not critical. When we get busy, they can tie up the nursery.''
Hospital officials say drug-addicted babies need complex care but they don't necessarily need to be in a neonatal intensive care unit or nursery.
To combat overcrowding, Cabell Huntington plans to partner with Lily's Place, a pediatric addiction recovery center that's expected to open later this year.
"When you have a baby that's addicted to drugs, you don't need to have baby MRIs or X-rays if those babies are born healthy otherwise and all they have going on is the drug addiction,'' said Mary Calhoun Brown, one of the organizers of Lily's Place.
"We would be supplying the baby with ever-decreasing amounts of morphine and giving therapeutic care.''
Thomas Memorial has started a program to help mothers get off drugs before they deliver. The program offers counseling with behavioral doctors and drug screenings.
"We're on the edge of what we'll do next,'' Hedrick said. "I'm glad Huntington stepped up and did that; it's a great idea. I don't know if we'll be looking at that in the future, but we are seeing more and more. You never know.''
Maxwell said CAMC has been educating people on how to care for addicted babies on their own.
"We can usually transfer the kids out to the newborn nursery or a step-down area, so there is no overcrowding,'' Maxwell said.
"But this goes back for a few years. We've now educated people to take care of them, and we're not being stuffed up at the hospital. At this point in time, the unit is not overflowing.''