High rate of NEFL babies born drug exposed

shutterstock_32776084Fifteen percent of all babies in the state born drug-exposed are born in Northeast Florida. The alarming number of babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition experienced by neonates exposed to opioid prescription or illicit drugs during the prenatal period and experiencing withdrawal after birth, has been on the rise over the last decade and high local rates have led the Coalition to create a new Substance-exposed Infant Prevention Work Group.

The region has both high numbers and high rates of infants with NAS, according to a recent report released by the Florida Department of Health. Nassau (#5), Baker (#7) and Clay (#10) counties are in the top 10 counties with the highest rates in the state, with rates 145-187 percent higher than the state rate.  Duval County has the highest number of babies born with NAS than any other county at 450 babies.

As of the end of the second quarter of the 2014-15 service year, the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition served 68 substance-exposed women. The Coalition is the fourth highest in the state for number of women served and number of encounters, of an average of 6.93 services per encounter.

In addition, in the same time period, the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition served more substance-exposed infants than any other coalition in the state — a total of 11 percent of the state’s substance-exposed infants, offering 7.31 services per encounter.

The issue was recently addressed by a statewide task force that included Healthy Start and March of Dimes representatives. They released a progress report in 2014 the included recommendations to create the “Born Drug-Free Florida” campaign; an NAS toolkit for nurses; and increased funding for treatment of mothers.

The Coalition’s Work Group, which met for the first time in April, brings together local medical providers, Healthy Start providers and substance abuse treatment organizations to develop a local response and coordinate efforts.