By Duff Wilson and John Shiffman. Filed Dec. Part 1: In America, a baby is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. In his first three weeks of life, Brayden suffered through a form of newborn drug dependency called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. He trembled and wailed inconsolably, clenching his muscles and sometimes gasping for breath as he went through withdrawal. But doctors neglected to take a critical step: They failed to alert child protection workers to the baby or his drug-addicted mother.
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Three weeks later, Brayden was dead. Each recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital.
What sealed their fates was being sent home to families ill-equipped to care for them. Like Brayden, more than 40 of the children suffocated. Thirteen died after swallowing toxic doses of methadone, heroin, oxycodone or other opioids. In one case, a baby in Oklahoma died after her mother, high on methamphetamine and opioids, put the day-old girl in a washing machine with a load of dirty laundry. See Part 2. That number has grown dramatically in the years since. Using hospital discharge records, Reuters tallied more than 27, diagnosed cases of drug-dependent newborns in , the latest year for which data are available.
On average, one baby was born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. The federal law calls on states to protect each of these babies, regardless of whether the drugs their mothers took were illicit or prescribed. But most states are ignoring the federal provisions, leaving thousands of newborns at risk every year. No more than nine states and the District of Columbia appear to conform with the federal law. And statutes or policies in the other five states are murky and confusing, even for doctors and child protection workers.
After the provisions were enacted, some states passed laws to meet the federal requirements. Most did not. A Reuters survey of state child protection officials and an examination of state statutes show that today, no more than nine states and the District of Columbia have laws that satisfy the federal provisions.
McConnell, the Senate majority leader, sponsored a bill signed into law this year that calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to examine what can be done to combat Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Representative Jim Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania who authored the provisions in the federal law.
That exemption stems from a well-meaning effort to avoid stigmatizing mothers who are being treated for addiction or other medical problems. But those good intentions ignore a difficult truth: A mother who abuses methadone or other legal opioids can be just as dangerous to her newborn as a parent high on heroin. In at least 39 of the cases in which children died, Reuters found, the mother was taking methadone or another drug that had been prescribed. Patient discharge records show they treated the child for the syndrome.
Data kept by state governments suggest that thousands of these babies and their mothers are never referred to child protection services. Reuters made that determination by comparing the number of newborns diagnosed by hospitals as drug-dependent with the number of cases referred to state child welfare authorities. Only seven states specifically tracked referrals of newborns in drug withdrawal.
In those states, the total number of cases logged by child protection services was less than half the number of children diagnosed. Because so many drug-dependent newborns go unreported, no one knows exactly how many children are injured or killed while in the care of parents struggling with addiction. Reuters filed more than Freedom of Information Act requests with federal, state, county and city agencies, and reviewed about 5, child fatality reports from across the United States to identify such cases.
Reporters also scrutinized tens of thousands of pages of reports by police, hospitals, medics, coroners and lawyers. By examining fatality reports and other public records, the news agency was able to identify examples of children who died across 23 states. The toll is almost certainly higher. Most states made available only partial information on the circumstances of infant deaths. Some of the largest states, including New York, declined to disclose any reports about child fatalities. Even so, researchers said the Reuters investigation represents the most comprehensive examination of the perils facing drug-dependent newborns after they are sent home.
During the so-called crack-baby epidemic of the s, public concern focused on whether children exposed to cocaine in utero would face long-term developmental problems. A longstanding law, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, was amended in to address that issue. The amendment orders states to set up systems to ensure that each case in which a baby is born drug-dependent is reported to child protection authorities. Although the amendment passed with almost no opposition, its impact has been limited.
At the time, the National Conference of State Legislatures said that many states would need to pass new laws to meet the federal provisions.
Few have. Congress offers federal funding for states that comply with the law. Today, most states require health officials to report only babies who were exposed to illicit narcotics. That means child protection services may never learn of babies suffering withdrawal from opioids that were legally prescribed to pregnant mothers.
Some state policies are so muddled that even child welfare officials are confused about the reporting requirements. At the other extreme, states such as Alabama and Tennessee have taken a punitive approach to expectant mothers battling addiction, enacting laws that make opioid abuse during pregnancy a crime in certain circumstances. Some well-intentioned doctors say the punitive measures give hospitals a strong incentive to keep quiet about certain kinds of cases.
See accompanying article. What about the baby? Reuters identified cases since of babies and toddlers whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy and who later died preventable deaths. Here is a look at the way many of them died:. Early on Jan. According to a police report: The girl tried to wake her mother, who lay beside the infant in the bed. But both parents were fast asleep after taking prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety medication.
When the mother awoke, the infant was face down and blue. Although Prichard had a history of methamphetamine abuse, social service workers did not have an open file on the family when the baby died on Oct. The state report said Marnee was malnourished and dehydrated, and she died after ingesting Fentanyl, a narcotic more powerful than morphine. Prichard pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to at least 10 years in prison. Downey was found guilty of felony child cruelty and was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison. A neighbor found the toddler naked, face down and under water.
After Bella drowned, police reports show, officers found mother Kelly Blackiston glassy-eyed, slurring her speech and stumbling as she walked. They also found prescriptions for 19 different drugs, including a potpourri of painkillers. She committed suicide in The boyfriend, who has pleaded not guilty, blames child protection services for not intervening, his lawyer said in an interview.
Eight of the cases resulted in criminal charges. The White House has done little to address the problem, some doctors say.
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Last month, Congress passed a bill directing the administration to move faster and devise a national strategy within a year. Statistics showing the spike in cases have been available since at least , she said. When are they going to start doing something? Infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome are sometimes born into excruciating misery. As they go through withdrawal, some shake, struggle to eat and often sputter and choke during feedings.
They suffer fits of sneezing and severe diarrhea. They can cry with such force that their bodies shudder. The symptoms are often worst during the first five weeks of life but can last three to six months, challenging even the most patient parents. The newborns rarely achieve deep sleep. As they endure withdrawal, they crave the darkness and calm of the womb, conditions almost impossible to replicate at home.
In West Virginia, cases have become so frequent that one hospital created a unit where babies are weaned off the drugs in dimly lit rooms, sheltered from bright light and commotion. In the deaths Reuters identified, expectant mothers typically had been using heroin, synthetic painkillers that include such drugs as Percocet and OxyContin, or methadone, an opioid often prescribed as an alternative to heroin or the other medications.
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Like Brayden Cummings, the Pennsylvania baby who died at 6 weeks of age, many of the children suffocated after hospitals released them to mothers unable to care for a baby. In December , a Kentucky hospital sent a newborn and a prescription for Percocet home with a year-old mother who was being treated for opioid addiction.
Five days later, on Dec. The night before Lynndaya died, McKenney later told police, she took three different medications: the opioid Percocet, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, and Subutex. Twice, the grandmother asked where the baby was. Hospital spokeswoman Mollie Smith declined to talk about the case, citing medical privacy.
Derek Clarke, the doctor listed on the hospital discharge document, delivered Lynndaya by Cesarean section. He later sent McKenney home with the prescription for Percocet, one of the drugs she took the night before she smothered her baby. Studies have shown that combining Subutex and Xanax can be particularly dangerous. Clarke did not respond to questions about the Xanax prescription. McKenney said Clarke should have known better than to give her the prescriptions. It was my fault, of course, and also it was his fault for offering me the medicine.
McKenney said she has been off drugs for about two years now. She said she wishes social services had been more involved when Lynndaya was born. Other children died of drug poisoning — not from the narcotics in their bodies at birth but from doses administered after they left the hospital. In Utah, a month-old girl named Jaslynn Raquel Mansfield died last year of acute methadone toxicity.
Her mother, Courtney Nicole Howell, was on prescription methadone during and after her pregnancy. In August, Howell was sentenced to up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter and exposing a child to drugs. In many ways, Howell represented the kind of vulnerable parent the federal law was meant to help.
Not only was her newborn going through withdrawal, but Howell also was homeless. She said the hospital gave her about four micro-doses of morphine to finish weaning Jaslynn off opioids. Howell herself continued to use methadone and other drugs, she said. Today, she said, she wishes she had been reported to child protection services when Jaslynn was born. In the case of Brayden Cummings, the 6-week-old who was accidentally suffocated by his mother in Pennsylvania, child welfare authorities learned of the boy only after it was too late.
On probation for theft and pregnant with Brayden, Schlier was jailed in May after testing positive for heroin, documents show.
A judge released her on July 31 — about a month before Brayden was born — on the condition that she take methadone, the opioid-replacement drug. The review team was led by child protection workers at Carbon County Children and Youth Services, the local welfare agency. Even though Schlier was on methadone during her pregnancy, social services were not alerted, the review team wrote.
The pediatrician, Narayana Gajula, said he was surprised to learn from Reuters that the hospital never reported the case. At the time, Pennsylvania required doctors, including Gajula, to report all cases in which a child was born drug-dependent, as the federal law spells out. He said that his office generally calls child protective services when babies seem at risk of neglect or abuse. He assumed hospital administrators automatically reported the case to social workers, he said.
In June, state lawmakers voted to change the policy for reporting babies born dependent on drugs: They loosened it. Today, if a drug-dependent baby is born to a mother using prescribed drugs — such as the methadone Schlier had been taking — doctors no longer need to alert social services. But today, a referral to child protection services in some states can put a mother in legal peril — a reality that dissuades some doctors from reporting cases of newborns in drug withdrawal no matter what the federal provisions intended.
The monitoring of mothers and what becomes of the children is haphazard at best, Reuters found.
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Some family advocates, including the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers, also favor enforcing a single approach nationwide, consistent with steps spelled out in the federal provisions. In those states, women can be prosecuted for using drugs during pregnancy that were not prescribed to them. The non-profit National Advocates for Pregnant Women says criminalizing drug use during pregnancy gives expectant mothers an incentive to hide their addictions or avoid prenatal care. This October, the advocacy group also expressed concern about a bill adopted unanimously by Congress and signed by President Obama on Nov.
The new law calls for research that might help prevent cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. By Duff Wilson. Part 2: A diagnosis of neonatal withdrawal comes at a critical moment, when child welfare workers can intervene and make a difference. Too often, they have failed to help a mother struggling with addiction — and save the life of her newborn.
The help came too late to save her daughter, Jacey.
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Jacey spent two weeks suffering through withdrawal, a result of the methadone Frazier took during pregnancy to control an addiction to prescription painkillers. Federal law calls on states to require hospitals to report newborns hooked on drugs to child protection services. Suddenly, that name so perfectly placed at on the list of popular names is Then Then 5. All to the horror of the Category 3 couple. You know when everyone calls a guy by his nickname except his parents, who use his full three-syllable name?
I think part of that is trying to wrench individuality from a fad name. To me, studying Name Fads throughout time yields the most interesting information because it speaks about something society is doing as a whole at a given time. Between and , everyone named their daughter Jennifer, and now, no one does. So Jennifer was officially a Name Fad. A few decades after that, Jennifer can look forward to having an Old Lady Name, which happens when a name belongs to lots of old ladies, but no one under Of course, Jennifer is just one of many such names.
These are all just Name Fads—only difference is when they happened. To stress how much more popular the biggest names used to be, Mary was six times as popular in as either Sophia or Emma is now. So to be clear, Gunner and Gael are currently more common baby names than Phillip or Scott. After dying out as a popular name for Southern women a few decades ago, Charlotte has returned as a popular name in the most liberal states. This graph shows popularity in each state over time, with the states going from most conservative on the top to most liberal on the bottom.
I would rather say that we have managed to catch the perfect time to be born! Read the original article on Business Insider UK. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists? Try Independent Minds free for 1 month. Independent Minds Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Minds. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more.
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