BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Legislation that would better fund care for babies born addicted to drugs could be making its way to Ohio.
Last week, Senator Sherrod Brown, alongside representatives from West Virginia and Maine, announced the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act.
“This is all about the baby and what we do to enhance this baby’s chance of a normal life,” Brown said.
While drug addiction has impacted communities across the country, Ohio is among the hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic.
The legislation would recognize residential pediatric facilities as providers under Medicaid to assist in the cost of treating neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
NAS is a withdrawal condition in newborns caused by substance abuse in pregnant women.
“These little babies will generally start having symptoms of withdrawal from the narcotic medication within a couple of days, usually, of birth,” said Dr. Linda Cooper, a neonatologist at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The CRIB Act would provide an alternative setting to a NICU, with specialized care and counseling for mothers and families that emphasizes bonding.
“That’s where we need the help, with resources and funding for programs for recovery for these mothers. That would be the most valuable thing they can give us,” Cooper said.
“We want to see specific units. They will be less expensive than sending a baby to a neonatal intensive care unit,” Brown said.
According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the cost of treating affected newborns can be more than five times the cost of treating other newborns.
“The average length of stay in our treatment firm for an infant with neonatal abstinence syndrome is about 14 days, so that means some of our babies are here for a month or longer,” Cooper said.
“It will be less expensive for taxpayers to pay at these specific facilities and the treatment, we understand, is better where they can focus just on the addiction problem,” Brown said.
He said there were six times more NAS cases in 2011 than in 2004, and that the increase in opioid use in the past five years likely makes those statistics even higher now.