In Ohio, some are calling for stricter penalties for people who sell drugs to pregnant women. According to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, 80% of women in the county jail are on drugs and are attempting to stop using them. In Butler County alone, there were two women with drug addictions who gave birth in jail last month.
Brigid’s Path — Compassionate Care for Drug-Addicted Newborns
The entire state of Ohio has been hit by the opioid epidemic, including pregnant women. In 2017, Ohio had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths related to opioids in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ohio’s opioid overdose death rate was 39.2 deaths per 100,000 people, which is much higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000.
Infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a condition where the child experiences drug withdrawal due to the mother’s addiction, require specialized medical supervision after birth. In 2015, the Ohio Department of Health estimated there were 15.8 infants born with NAS out of every 1,000 live births. This number is 2.7 times higher than the national average. NAS treatment usually takes place in a hospital, with an average cost of $61,178 per stay. These costs don’t include infant aftercare or treatment for the infant’s family.
A drug-dependent baby is born every 15 minutes in the United States. This startling discovery is what led to the creation of Brigid’s Path, an organization dedicated to helping babies who are born addicted and exposed to drugs. The organization also seeks to improve family outcomes in a nonjudgmental way. Since it was first founded, Brigid’s Path has become a crisis care facility specifically for children. It has licensing from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and the 24/7 facility is the first of its kind in Ohio and only the second nationwide.
The goal of Brigid’s Path is to provide NAS withdrawal services to infants in a comfortable, home-like environment. Treatment comes from medical staff and trained volunteers. In addition, the families of babies born with NAS are given help and care in a setting that’s free of judgment. The families also receive resources for connecting with local community services.
According to Kim Kleinhans, the Director of Family Advocacy for Brigid’s Path, the goal is to provide medical treatment for babies as well as family services to get the parents involved in providing care. Of the 51 babies who have come to Brigid’s Path, she believes only four went on to foster care. Kleinhans cites this as a success.
What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?
The March of Dimes describes neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as a condition that occurs as a baby goes through withdrawal from drug exposure that occurs in the womb. This usually occurs because of opioid exposure. When a pregnant mother takes an opioid, regardless of whether it is heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids, it can pass through the placenta and reach the growing baby.
NAS symptoms usually occur within 72 hours of birth and can last anywhere from a week to six months. Common symptoms of NAS include:
- Tremors, seizures and twitching
- Tight muscle tone
- Excessive fussiness or crying
- High-pitched crying
- Problems with sucking and feeding
- Slow weight gain or failure to thrive
- Breathing problems
- Problems with sleeping
- Frequent yawning
- Throwing up
- Stuffy nose
Complications can include low birth weight, jaundice and the need to stay in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU).
In Butler County, the jail and the county government cover the costs of medical treatment for mothers who are incarcerated. However, they do not pay the medical expenses of the babies. Sheriff Jones is working with local lawmakers and the Ohio Prosecutor’s Association on a bill that will make the penalties for drug dealers who sell to pregnant women harsher. They hope to have the bill ready at the end of summer.
If you or someone you know is pregnant and struggling with an addiction to opioids or other substances, The Recovery Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options that can work well for your situation.
Reed, Molly. “Infants Fighting Drug Withdrawals in Miami Valley.” Dayton 24/7 Now, July 4, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.
March of Dimes. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).” June 2017. Accessed July 26, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Ohio Opioid Summary.” March 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019.