CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In an op-ed for The Herald-Dispatch, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) explains how the findings from a recent study she requested on neonatal abstinence syndrome will serve as a new tool in combatting the drug epidemic in West Virginia and across the United States.
Last week, Senator Capito and Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) announced the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on neonatal abstinence syndrome. The study, “Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” is the first federal study of its kind to examine best practices and approaches to treating newborns exposed to opioids during pregnancy.
“West Virginia is setting an example for its use of this innovative type of treatment. I’m hopeful that this new study will give us a better roadmap for how to care for these newborns, giving them a new lease on life and ending the cycle of addiction, and inspire more action. As long as the scourge of drug addiction remains, I will continue working to tackle this epidemic and save lives,” Senator Capito wrote.
View the op-ed here and below.
Treating the Drug Epidemic’s Youngest Victims
By: U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
October 8, 2017
“Every day we hear upsetting stories about the tragic deaths and painful struggles of individuals dealing with addiction.
“Some of the most heartbreaking stories are those about infants who are exposed to opioids before birth.
“As opioid use has increased, more and more pregnant women are prone to addiction. Neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS is a withdrawal condition in babies who are exposed to opioids and other substances during pregnancy.
“It’s yet another tragic outcome of the opioid epidemic that we’re seeing here in Huntington and in other communities across America.
“Sadly, rates of NAS are on the rise, up nearly five-fold between 2000 and 2012. In West Virginia, one out of every 10 children is born dependent on heroin or some other opiate, the highest rate of NAS in the country.
“A new federal study, the first of its kind, released this week will advance our understanding about how to treat these infants and newborns. While NAS is often treatable, these infants require specialized care that typically results in long, costly and complicated hospital stays.
“The study outlines the best hospital and non-hospital settings for treating infants, and recommends possible solutions and challenges for addressing NAS. The study is the result of my work with Representative Evan Jenkins to call attention to this condition, improve treatment and break the cycle of addiction.
“When the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was signed into law last year, it took a broad step forward in the national response to the drug crisis. The bill included provisions to protect its youngest victims, including requiring this new study.
“As part of this study, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) visited West Virginia and three other states. West Virginia is home to Lily’s Place, a non-hospital health provider that offers specialized care for infants going through withdrawal.
“At Lily’s Place, mothers have opportunities to stay with their infants. This allows them to learn how to care for their infants with NAS and to experience firsthand the realities of living with an infant with this condition.
“Since opening in 2014, Lily’s Place has provided medical care to nearly 200 babies and offered support, education and counseling to countless families and caregivers.
“The GAO study cites this model of care pioneered by Lily’s Place, recommends that mothers have extensive interactions with the infant during NAS treatment and highlights the importance of educating expectant mothers on prenatal care. It also recommends that health care providers receive continuing education to screen and treat NAS.
“Still, many families across the country don’t have access to the kind of care that’s available in West Virginia or, worse, don’t even know it’s a possibility.
“At the same time, many medical professionals are looking for guidance about how to treat babies with this condition. By raising awareness of treatment options like those available at Lily’s Place and exploring strategies to help infants in need, we can really begin to address this tragic aspect of the opioid crisis.
“West Virginia is setting an example for its use of this innovative type of treatment. I’m hopeful that this new study will give us a better roadmap for how to care for these newborns, giving them a new lease on life and ending the cycle of addiction, and inspire more action. As long as the scourge of drug addiction remains, I will continue working to tackle this epidemic and save lives.”
U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) represents West Virginia in the United States Senate.
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