Cincinnati Becoming National Model For Tracking Babies Exposed To Heroin

Aug 10, 2015

Chicago and Buffalo are the latest cities to contact Dr. Scott Wexelblatt, the medical director for newborn services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, about a program that helps to identify and treat babies exposed to heroin and other drugs.

It was September 2014 when more than a dozen hospitals in the Greater Cincinnati Health Council agreed to test mothers admitted to give birth for heroin and other opiates. Wexelblatt says no other regional hospital group in the nation has banded together to require this test.

Dr. Scott Wexelblatt, medical director for newborn services at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Credit Provided / Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

There has been very little resistance to the urine test, according to Wexelblatt. He theorizes that might be because women who test positive are not subject to criminal prosecution.

It's important to identify babies born addicted to drugs, called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), because 41-94 percent require a longer stay in the hospital.

Symptoms appear two to seven days after delivery. According to Wexelblatt, "These babies are very fussy. They are cranky. They are hard to console. They are very poor feeders. They lose weight. And in the worst case scenarios they can have seizures."

Wexelblatt says since they began tracking in 2009, the number of babies with NAS has gone from two in one-thousand births to 32 in one-thousand births.