TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Babies born to drug-addicted moms experience heartbreaking symptoms: they can suffer seizures, withdrawal tremors and pain.
Sometimes they just can't stop crying. Doctors will give them methadone, also used to help heroin addicts kick their addiction.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is leading a task force that aims to develop solutions for the problem of drug-addicted newborns.
With the explosion of prescription drug abuse over the past decade, the number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs has tripled. These newborns require expensive hospital care and they can face long-term problems too.
The Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns on Monday considered some recommendations to offer state lawmakers in next year's legislative session.
"This is a problem all over our country. So we really can make a difference not only in Florida for saving lives and money throughout the country," said Bondi.
The Florida Department of Children and Families reports substance abuse is a factor in about 28,000 cases of child abuse every year. DCF Secretary David Wilkins says the state spends about $160 million on foster care for the children taken out of those homes.
Wilkins proposes spending more money up front on drug intervention and treatment programs for parents to try to prevent these children from going into foster care. He projects if the state spends $22 million on prevention, it could save that same amount of money by reducing the number of children going into foster care in the next few years.
"So we would actually save money in terms of the foster care system and, of course, we're able to keep the mom and the child together and you get all the downstream benefits of not tearing up that family in the first place."
Some of the task force's recommendations include: developing a public awareness campaign to educate Floridians about the dangers of prescription drug abuse during pregnancy, creating an immunity provision in state law that would protect a pregnant woman from being prosecuted if she seeks drug treatment, and developing new protocols for drug-addicted babies.
The group plans to finalize its report in January and then submit it to state lawmakers before the start of next year's legislative session in March.
First Coast News