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The video is at actual speed. The boy has since improved and was sent home late last month. The hospital provided the video to Reuters so that the public could better understand how traumatic newborn drug withdrawal can be. By Duff Wilson and John Shiffman. Filed Dec. Part 1: In America, a baby is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. Like more than , other children born in the United States in the last decade, Brayden entered the world hooked on drugs — a dependency inherited from a mother battling addiction.

A year-old federal law calls on states to take steps to safeguard babies like Brayden after they leave the hospital. 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.

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 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 ed 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 of newborns diagnosed by hospitals as drug-dependent with the of cases referred to state child welfare authorities. Only seven states specifically tracked referrals of newborns in drug withdrawal. In those states, the total of cases logged by child protection services was less than half the 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 s 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. Less examined was whether babies born with narcotics in their bodies were in danger after they were treated and released from the hospital. 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. But the amount of money tied to the provisions is tiny. 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. 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. 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.

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