Physicians expanding programs for infants of opioid addicts

Photo by Ricky Garcia / NM News Port

Rio Arriba County continues leading the state in the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) with about 64 per 1,000 births in 2015. That is more than six times the state’s average.

Source: New Mexico Department of Health

Socorro County leads with the second highest at 50.0 per 1,000 births, bringing the 2015 overall state average to around 10 per 1,000 births.

In the last few years, New Mexico has seen an increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers or opioids — drugs often leading to use of the street drug, heroin.

New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) Public Information Officer Paul Rhien says serious complications may occur due to this epidemic.

“Opioid addiction during pregnancy causes Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome which refers to a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while in the mother’s womb,” Rhien said.

UNM Hospital Family Physician and New Mexico Perinatal Collaborative Director Dr. Larry Leeman says he has seen mothers from Socorro, Truth or Consequences and Espanola, New Mexico seek help from the Milagro Program.

Leeman says the Milagro Program is an outreach program helping communities care for babies that have NAS as well as caring for women with opioid addiction during pregnancy.

“The number of pregnant women on opioids has been rising over the last five years,” Leeman said. “We’ve expanded our program so that we’re now based in four different sites in the [Albuquerque] community.”

With the program expanding to more locations in the Albuquerque area, Leeman says separation consequences may arise in other NM communities, depending on the hospital.

“If they’re in a rural hospital where they’re not used to caring for these babies, what they’ll usually do is transport the baby to UNM or Presbyterian [hospital],” Leeman said.

This transfer separates mothers their newborn baby in order to seek the necessary care provided by many Albuquerque hospitals.

Data from the past five years shows an increase in many NM counties in the rates of NAS per 1,000 births.

Nationwide, Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, reported the 2013 NAS national rate was 6 per 1,000 births. The NMDOH reported number for New Mexico in 2013 was around 8 per 1,000 births.

Rhien says NMDOH recognizes the issue at hand and continues making the opioid overdose epidemic fight their priority.

“We are committed to ongoing efforts to address prevention, treatment and effective response to opioid misuse and abuse,” Rhien said. “We continue to work to address NAS so babies and their mothers with opioid use disorders can live healthy, productive lives.”

                                   Top 10 Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Rates
(per 1,000 live births) by County of Residence of the Mother, in New Mexico 2011-2015
County of Residence of the Mother 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Rio Arriba 29.5 31.1 35.7 64.1 64.6
Socorro 16.8 19 36.4 60.7 50
Hidalgo 13.2 0 0 0 39.2
Los Alamos 0 11.2 6.3 5.8 23.8
Santa Fe 9.3 20.6 7.6 17.4 20.8
Valencia 6.5 13.7 13.3 15.6 14.3
Bernalillo 9.5 12.7 14.4 12.6 14.2
Grant 6.8 6.2 9.7 16.9 12.5
Torrance 5.8 0 6.8 8 11.6
New Mexico 6.1 7.6 8.8 9.4 10.3

Source: New Mexico Department of Health – Hospital Inpatient Discharge Data sets

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