I-Team: Local hospitals detect hundreds of opiate-dependent newborns each year

WCPOPublished: August 31, 2017
Published: August 31, 2017

Amanda Hopkins was overjoyed when she gave birth to her third baby girl in June at a local hospital. But she was also scared, because her drug screen came back positive for cocaine and the hospital wouldn't release her baby until a confirming test came back negative. "It was very nerve-wracking for over 48 hours to be told that you can’t leave," Hopkins said. Hopkins and her daughter were tested as part of a universal drug screening program for newborns. Nearly a dozen hospitals use the program. Since 2013, the program has identified hundreds of opiate-dependent babies. The voluntary universal testing program began in 2013 as a way to help identify opiate-dependent babies. Newborns who are opiate-dependent usually don't begin showing withdrawal symptoms for the first 24 to 48 hours. The program was developed by Dr. Scott Wexelblatt. He's the regional medical director for newborn services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "The whole idea from our end is to make sure that the baby goes home safely, into a safe environment," he said. "We want to make sure the baby isn't being discharged too early if it's been exposed to drugs." Local hospitals took up the testing program in response to the increase in drug-addicted babies born in the area. From 2009 to the beginning of 2013, the number of babies exposed to opioids quadrupled from 10.8 infants per 1,000 births to 46 per 1,000 births, according to data provided by Children's Hospital.

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