SOUTH BEND, Ind.
(AP) - The Indiana Department of Health has been working to collect data on
a withdrawal syndrome in newborns amid the country’s opioid abuse epidemic.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when the transfer of harmful substances
from mother to baby abruptly stops at the time of birth. The syndrome can be
caused by different types of substances, but it’s most commonly the result
of opioids, The South Bend Tribune reported.
began testing babies at four Indiana hospitals in 2016. It expanded to 27
hospitals this year.
The agency found
that about 16 percent of newborns tested at all of the participating
hospitals had been exposed to opioids while in the womb.
director of the health department’s Maternal and Child Health Division, said
Indiana is above the national average. However, she suspects the problem is
worse because not every baby at the hospitals is tested.
The data being
collected bolsters the growing problem that hospitals have seen in recent
years, said Donetta Gee-Weiler, vice president of women and children’s
services for Community Health Network, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit
doctors and nurses with Community Health are treating many newborns with
withdrawal symptoms. She said before the department’s study, there wasn’t a
grasp of the number of newborns affected.
“What this proves
is that it’s a true epidemic,” Gee-Weiler said of the data.
Indianapolis East Hospital was one of the four hospitals to first join the
study. Twenty percent of newborns tested at the hospital have been exposed