Scioto County leads the entire state of Ohio in babies born drug-addicted. In a report by the Children’s Defense Fund titled “Ohio’s Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action,” the numbers stand out in stark fashion calling for immediate action.
According to the report, 76 babies in every 1,000 live births, are born with the diagnosis Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Babies born in Ohio’s Appalachian region are almost twice as likely as the average Ohio newborn to be diagnosed with NAS.
“We’re seeing in a years time, which for us is about 1,200 births, we’re running about 12 to 13 percent of our babies testing positive at birth for some kind of substance that is either illegal or illegally obtained,” Nurse Manager for the Maternity Department at Southern Ohio Medical Center, Jone Stone, said. “We have the same rate of positivity for our moms.”
Close behind Scioto County are Lawrence County with 66.7 in 1,000 live births and Pike at 57.7 per 1,000 live births.
Ohio has seen an alarming increase in the number of babies born with exposure to opiate drugs. NAS is a set of symptoms associated with withdrawal from opioids and other drugs in infants whose mothers were taking these substances during pregnancy. Symptoms can include low birth weight, seizures, excessive crying, breathing problems, eating and sleeping difficulties and other problems.
The breakdown in the report is divided into five categories: 0.5-8; 8.1-16; 16.1-24; 24.1-32 and 32.1-80 (see counties in red on map). Scioto, Pike and Lawrence are the only counties in the largest category. Nine of the top 10 counties with the highest rates of NAS in Ohio are in Appalachia, which includes all three of those counties.
In 2013, 1,691 babies with NAS were admitted to inpatient settings in Ohio-or five admissions per day. The rates for babies born with NAS quadrupled from the five year period 2004-2008 to the 2009-2013 time frame, from 2.2 per 1,000 live births to 8.8. Babies with NAS often require longer hospital stays than other newborns so that they can receive treatment for withdrawal, which in turn increaes hospitalization costs.
Part of the study, in fact, a large portion of the study deals with the socioeconomic conditions and that means unemployment. In 2000 only 9 of the 32 counties in Appalachia had unemployment rates higher than 7 percent. In 2014, more than half (18 counties) had rates higher than 7 percent. This region was again represented in those numbers with Adams County showing a 9.1 percent unemployment rate and Pike County right behind them at 9 percent. Meigs County also had a 9 percent unemployment rate.
Pike County has the highest rate of child poverty in Appalachia and in Ohio at 36 percent. Scioto, Adams, Jackson, Gallia, Vinton, Guernsey, Highland, Morgan, Trumbull, Meigs, and Muskingham counties all have child poverty rates of 31 percent or more. Household incomes in Appalachia were lower than Ohio overall in both 2000 and 2013. The numbers stick out like a sore thumb. The median household income in Scioto County stood at $36,682, slightly above Morgan County at $36,057 and the lowest, Athens at $35,783.
Is there a bright spot in all these numbers?
Fortunately the answer is yes.
“The Stepping Stone House that The Counseling Center has is a really well-organized program,” Stone said. “Part of it is an outpatient program and part of it is residential where the moms can go there and stay while they go through the program. They provide housing for the mom. They provide housing for the newborn and other children. They also provide housing for the mom who’s pregnant. That’s really an important component of that program is they take pregnant moms and the help them through their pregnancy to get on medication assisted treatment and wean down before they come in to deliver.”
Stone said the program also addresses the mothers’ prenatal needs including nutritional needs. She said when SOMC has addicted mothers in their care, they can be referred to the Stepping Stone program.
The Stepping Stone House, operated by The Counseling Center, recently celebrated 200 babies born to recovering mothers.
One of those mothers, Kathy Newman, now, herself working with addicted mothers through The Counseling Center, told the Daily Times, she arrived at Stepping Stone in August 2011. She completed the program in December 2011, and went immediately into Level-2 housing, which is also part of The Counseling Center Transitional Living. Kathy became pregnant while she was in treatment.
“That’s what influenced my decision to stay,” Kathy said. “The fact that my baby was conceived while I was clean and being able to see these other mothers that were pregnant and struggling with that their baby could be born addicted. I knew that I had this new accountability, this new life that was depending on me and my mind was clear for the first time in over 10 years. So I made the decision there that I was going to stay until after that baby was born. I was going to do whatever it took to get him here clean.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.