Legislators joined former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan at Brigid’s Path on Wednesday as Ryan’s American Idea Foundation donated $50,000 to the newborn recovery center and visitors learned more about the center’s work at a roundtable with staff members.
“Having Paul Ryan look nationally for models and to find one right here is certainly a credit to our community,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton.
Ryan noted Turner’s support for the passing of the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies Act, or CRIB Act. The act passed in 2018 and allowed Medicaid to cover certain health care services provided to infants in residential pediatric recovery facilities and hospitals. Centers like Brigid’s Path were previously not eligible to receive Medicaid reimbursement.
The CRIB Act received support from Turner in the House and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and then-Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in the Senate.
“I’m going across America looking for really successful poverty-fighting programs that can be measured and scaled and replicated across the country,” Ryan said. “So I’m here in Kettering to learn about Brigid’s Path, which is doing enormous work in making a difference in babies who are born with addictions.”
Neonatal abstinence syndrome
Brigid’s Path has helped more than 200 infants since December 2017, the facility said. The center provides specialized treatment options for infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is when newborns have been exposed to drugs prior to birth.
Newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome have been decreasing in Ohio, but there were 1,526 neonatal abstinence syndrome inpatient discharges in the state in 2021, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Statistics also show 1,652 neonatal abstinence syndrome discharges in 2020. This is down from 1,935 in 2017 and 2,223 in 2016.
This also follows a trend of decreasing births in Ohio, which included 129,817 hospital births in 2021, 138,267 in 2017 and 140,142 in 2016, according to ODH.
The majority of the substances newborns in Ohio were exposed to through placenta or breast milk were either opioids or cocaine, according to ODH.
Infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome also experienced higher rates of other difficulties compared with all infants, ODH data says. In 2021, approximately 30.3% of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome had feeding difficulties compared to 7.4% of all infants, 21.3% had low birth weight compared to 11.4% of all infants, 28.9% had respiratory symptoms compared to 12.7%, and 0.8% experience seizures or convulsions compared to 0.2%.
“What a beautiful thing to see people stepping up and doing this on their own and then working with government entities so that we have success,” said U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, on Wednesday.
The American Idea Foundation learned of Brigid’s Path through the Stand Together Foundation, a nonprofit that supports other entities that address poverty, Ryan said. The foundation also hopes to help replicate what Brigid’s Path is doing.
“We see here a program that has already proven to work, and what we want to do is do more measurement of what Brigid’s Path does and how it succeeds, so that we can track that progress and then tell the story so that we can replicate the success,” Ryan said.
Ohio also ranks 41st among states in infant mortality and 32nd in infant maltreatment, according to Groundwork Ohio, a public policy organization. Half of Ohio infants and toddlers also live in poverty.
“One of the biggest things we’ve tried to ensure both at Dayton Children’s and here is making sure they get access to care, for one, and also they know what safe sleep is,” said Dr. Stephen Hunter, medical director at Brigid’s Path.
In Montgomery County, there were 11 deaths related to unsafe sleep in 2022, according to Montgomery County Children Services. In 2021, there were 13, along with six, 11, and five deaths in 2020, 2019, and 2018, respectively.
“Making sure the babies are alone, on their back, and in their crib without any pillows or covers around,” said Hunter, describing safe sleep practices for newborns.
Black infants are 2.7 times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants, according to 2020 statistics from ODH. In 2020, 864 babies died before their first birthday in Ohio. In 2020, the infant mortality rate fell to 6.7 from 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019 for all races. The rate among Black infants fell to 13.6 in 2020 from 14.3 in 2019.