Expectant mothers using drugs seeking information should call 937-208-4814.
Those wishing to donate may contact the program at the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation at 937-208-2700.
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More than 200 babies are born with drugs in their systems every year in the Miami Valley, and health professionals say more needs to be done to help the infants and their drug-addicted mothers.
That’s starting to happen.
The number of babies diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome — usually because of mothers using opiates like pain pills and heroin during pregnancy — has increased dramatically in recent years, resulting in huge costs and family dysfunction.
Programs such as Promise to Hope-Mother to Baby at Miami Valley Hospital are designed to address what has become a hugely expensive problem: managing the number of NAS cases flooding area hospitals.
“These women and these babies need something in our community and there is nothing out there,” said Jenny Lewis, president and CEO of the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation.
Promise to Hope-Mother to Baby
The Miami Valley Hospital Foundation is the principal funding arm of Promise to Hope-Mother to Baby, a pilot project based at the hospital that was created to coordinate the care and case management of mothers and infants with their doctors and other social service providers.
“Unfortunately, this drug is being used by a variety of people in our community,” Lewis said. “It’s not the person who is the homeless, jobless person. It could be your next-door neighbor.”
Dr. Marc Belcastro, medical director of Miami Valley Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, said free prenatal care and a physician dedicated to overseeing the drug treatment of expectant mothers will reduce potential problems for both mother and child.
“It will ensure a greater likelihood they will be able to breast feed and also go home with their infant instead of having to send the infant to foster care or to a relative because they haven’t been able to get things in order in their life in a way that they can take the baby home,” he said.
Premier Health’s maternal-fetal health providers started taking patients May 11. The program’s community partners include the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Montgomery County, Samaritan Behavioral Health, Miami Valley Hospital Turning Point, Nova Behavioral Health, Five Rivers Health Center, and the Women’s Recovery Center in Xenia.
Belcastro said some women are enrolled but no babies have been delivered yet. The program is set to serve about 100 women the first year.
Funding for the program is not in the hospital’s budget, Lewis said. The $600,000 for the first year of the pilot is being raised by the foundation through fundraisers and donations. About $450,000 has been raised so far, she said.
“There are pieces of the puzzle happening in the community but there’s no one really pulling it all together and that’s really what we want to do,” Lewis said.
Two local women – one the daughter of addicts and another who fosters drug-addicted newborns – are collaborating to open Brigid’s Path in Kettering. If they succeed, it would be the first facility in Ohio to allow infants to go through withdrawal in homelike nurseries outside of a hospital.
Two former schoolteachers, Deanna Murphy and Jill Kingston, are the co-founders and co-executive directors.
Stabilizing drug-exposed infants on withdrawal medication in a hospital typically takes about five days, Kingston and Murphy said. The babies still have to be closely watched, but not necessarily in a hospital. They say transferring the children to a nursery-like setting could save Medicaid costs because the treatment and recovery could be done there at a fraction of what it would cost in a hospital.
Kingston through Montgomery County Children Services has fostered several babies diagnosed with NAS. She said families too often are broken apart when mothers are forced to relinquish their newborns.
Even when they’re not separated, the trauma of a sick child can keep a baby and mother from bonding, she said. Brigid’s Path would offer a place for mother and baby to form a relationship while the entire family receives counseling and support.
Murphy said her mother is a cocaine abuser and her father a recovering alcoholic. The name Brigid’s Path combines the name of the Saint Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of babies and children who are born to unmarried parents, with a reference from Psalm 25.
“This mission is much bigger than us,” Murphy said. “We want this to be a place of health but also a place of comfort and love and non-judgment, non-stigma so that families can find recovery, too. If we get babies well but we do nothing to treat the family, we’re not doing baby any favors.”
Brigid’s Path still has some hurdles to overcome before it can become a first-of-its-kind facility in Ohio. It has a home — a donated 11,870 square-foot building at 3601 South Dixie Drive in Kettering — but needs to raise $1.8 million in capital funding and get state approval before going forward.
Changes in state law may be needed to overcome some of the licensing and regulatory issues, they said, including whether Medicaid could cover some of the costs. Medicaid insures roughly 87 percent of the babies diagnosed with NAS, but there is no pathway for Brigid’s Path to get reimbursed by Medicaid should the facility get the OK to open.
Volunteers have held diaper drives and collected stuffed animals to prepare for the children, but it’s not clear when the regulation and funding issues will get resolved.
Kingston and Murphy envision having 24 nurseries up and running in the building.