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New Numbers Show Spike In Addicted Babies Born in Broome County

By Kerry Longobucco.
New data released by the New York State Department of Health show a spike in the number of drug addicted infants being born in Broome County.

In 2014, 34 newborns were born with opiate addictions in Broome County. The Department of Health says that's a nearly 180 percent increase since 2009.

Those statistics are startling -- and local officials say this is just another symptom of heroin's hold on our community.

"In 2010, we had 17 children in broome county born positive for opiates," Arthur Johnson, commissioner of the Broome County Mental Health Department, said. "So, the number really spiked up from 2010 to 13, and then it leveled off, but it's leveled off at a high number."

"When women who become pregnant are using heroin, typically the birth weight is a quarter of what a normal baby's birth weight is," Jason Garnar, director of public communications for Family Planning of Central New York, said. "So, it's very difficult for them to even last the pregnancy. If they do survive the pregnancy, then they're addicted for months, and they're just in terrible pain."

That's why Garnar says for women struggling with addiction, preventing pregnancy is key. Birth control is available through Family Planning of Central New York.

"Anybody who's using heroin should really think about using some type of contraception," Garnar said. "The last thing they need to do while they're using heroin is to bring a child into the world."

If an opiate-addicted woman does find herself pregnant -- officials say it's never too late to get help.

"The safe protocol to start treatment is methadone treatment that's offered by united health services hospitals," Johnson said. "And pregnant women get priority access to that program."

If the mother is using methadone during her pregnancy to ween herself off heroin, the baby will likely still suffer withdrawals -- but experts say it's a safer option than the drug itself.

"Any alternative to using heroin would be better than using heroin up till the point where you give birth," Garnar said. "We call this harm reduction,"

The county is pledging $260,000 toward a program that will create eight to ten new beds for opiate-addicted mothers, and their babies, at a county facility. This will allow mother and child to get the treatment they both need, in a secure setting.

"Case management, day care, make sure mom's going to treatment.
any services that the baby needs," Johnson said. "We want a good, safe, clean housing for the mother and the baby. We want to do the best we can to help try to make mom's recovery from addiction successful."

Funding for the program has already been set aside in the county's 2016 budget.