A 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of 28 states found on average, six in 1,000 babies were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2013, up from 1.5 in 1,000 in 1999. Nevada’s rate at the time was 4.8 in 1,000 babies born addicted. In the past five years, that rate has been on the rise, perhaps due to the increasing use and misuse of opioids. “This is a new epidemic that is spreading throughout the country, and the education for the physicians and the medical staff is relatively new,” said Dr. Deepa Nagar, MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist and NICU medical director at Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospital’s Siena campus. “That’s a big barrier. We need everybody to have a better understanding of it.” Witnessing the growing problem in their own workplace, Nagar and her colleague decided to try to determine how they could help connect moms to whatever addiction treatment, therapy, parenting classes or case management services they may need earlier in their pregnancies to keep another baby from being born with NAS. Three years later, the EMPOWERED program was born, which stands for Empower Mothers for Positive Outcomes With Education, Recovery and Early Development. Moms seeking help on their own or through their doctors or loved ones can call the program’s phone line to get connected.
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