By Sarah Mansheim
Last week, U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins travelled to Greenbrier County to discuss the ravages of drug addiction on newborn babies.
During a roundtable discussion at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center, Jenkins introduced the Cradle Act, bipartisan legislation to improve and expand care for babies diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), or exposure to opioids during pregnancy.
During the roundtable discussion, hospital employees described the ravages drug addiction has on newborn babies. After babies are born, babies with NAS experience withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, irritability, crying, stiffness, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory distress. Greenbrier Valley Medical Center has protocols in place for NAS babies. Those with the most severe symptoms are treated with prescription drugs. Other treatments include a low-light, low-stimulus environment, and swaddling and comforting the babies.
GVMC Director of Women’s Services Vivian Davies said that such constant care can be hard on the nursing staff and on the hospital’s bottom line. It takes days for positive drug tests to come back, she said, and some babies don’t present withdrawal symptoms for several days.
“Normally (insurance companies) pay for three days,” said Davies. “We’ve had babies that needed to stay for 30 days. The hospital ends up eating the cost of caring for those children.”
Jenkins said it costs about $4,500 to deliver a healthy baby. A NAS baby can cost about $70,000.
“(NAS babies) pretty much have all the symptoms of an adult who is going through withdrawal,” Jenkins said. He noted his life changed after holding an NAS baby. “These are the most victimized victims in all of the drug crisis. Their suffering is simply unacceptable to me.”