Onondaga County has more drug-addicted newborns

Onondaga County is trying to bring down the high number of babies born with drug related problems. A hotline, 315 218-1965, is aimed at getting pregnant & using women to help for unborn babies

A big information and referral campaign is getting underway in Onondaga County, on word that the rate of newborns with drug-related problems here is FOUR TIMES the statewide rate.

It is costly: "90% of the babies are born to women who are on Medicaid," says Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow. "Meaning that the taxpayer is footing that bill."

"It's a big money issue," says Morrow. 'If you look at the cost of a baby that's born through normal delivery...and you look at a baby who's born addicted to drugs who requires time in the intensive care unit, you're talking $8-thousand versus $50- thousand dollars for one baby."

The fact that there are more babies being born with drug problems is no surprise to hospital staffers. At St. Joseph's, Intensive Care Nursery RN Rosemary Pazer tells us they don't even have to see the tests, they recognize the symptoms of withdrawal in newborns. St. Joseph's has a 'Neonatal Abstinence Scoring Sheet' that is used to check intensive care babies every two hours. "Most babies are irritable, they cry a lot, and a lot of the nursing care is just holding the baby," says Pazer.

A community-wide 'There is Hope' awareness campaign is now getting underway.

Posters, brochures and cards urge women who are pregnant and using to get help through a 24x7 a hotline at (315) 218-1975. Gail Banach, at Upstate NY Poison Center says they hope to distribute 'to clinics and any organization that has an affiliation with women who are pregnant or who can become pregnant.'

Prevention Network is also a partner in the campaign, with Kristen Stanton saying they're also developing 'scripts' to help healthcare professionals ask all women they see if they're using, and how to get help before a baby is born.

"If we can prevent this," says Dr. Morrow, "not only are we helping mom and baby, but we're helping the bottom line."