Study finds dramatic rise in Pa. babies affected by opioids

A new study shows the number of babies born in Pennsylvania with opioid withdrawal symptoms has increased 1,000 percent since 2000. The Health Care Cost Containment Council released the data, saying more babies are born diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Joe Martin of the council says these babies are not getting a good head start in life.  "This is one of the worst tragedies of this whole epidemic is the impact it's having on babies," he said.

Dr. Tammy Corr of Penn State Children's Hospital says almost 2,000 babies in Pennsylvania were born addicted to drugs last year. "More mom's who are exposing their babies to opioids leads to more babies who are experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome," Corr said.

Gov. Tom Wolf has declared a state of emergency to address the opioid crisis. The numbers show the state cannot keep up with the rising health care costs for taking care of these babies. Martin says the cost overall exceeds $14 million. That's because babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome are staying in hospitals about five times longer than normal for treatment.

"All the typical things that you would expect - the maternal bonding and being able to room in with her baby, to breast feed, to bring home baby to meet with family - are all hindered by the fact that the baby is stuck here in intensive care until receiving treatment," Corr said.

The study shows counties like York and Lancaster are leading in the rate of babies born addicted to drugs. "I think the state's doing a good job, but the problem is so powerful that we're all struggling as to how to deal with it properly," Martin said.