ST. PETERSBURG — Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has received an anonymous $2.5 million donation to expand services to treat babies exposed to opioids and other drugs during pregnancy.
The donation will be used to open a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Follow-up Clinic at the hospital’s main campus in St. Petersburg, according to a news release. The money also will enhance existing services at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Speciality Clinic in Sarasota, which opened in 2013.
"It’s hard to overstate the relevance or the impact of this generous donation," Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation, said in a statement. "At a time when so many in our communities are struggling with opioid addiction, these funds will bring critical services to the babies and young children who may suffer the serious, long-term effects of exposure to these drugs. This gift gives these little ones more than a fighting chance for a healthy life."
Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a withdrawal syndrome infants experience after birth due to exposure to opioids and other drugs while in the womb. The number of cases in Florida has grown rapidly, keeping up with a pattern seen nationwide, experts say. In 2016, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reported 4,215 babies born in the state with exposure to addictive drugs during pregnancy. That’s a 69 percent increase over 2015. Hillsborough County led the state with 579 reported cases, Pinellas was No. 6 with 167 babies, and Sarasota was No. 15.
"It is unclear how exposure to these medications affects a child’s development. That is where the NAS Follow-up Clinic can make a real difference," Katie Wooten, a registered nurse and the coordinator for both clinics, said in a statement.
The clinics in both St. Petersburg and Sarasota will treat babies exposed to drugs including prescription medications, methadone and heroin. Pediatricians, a nurse practitioner and a neurodevelopment psychologist will be on staff as part of the program. Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy programs will be offered to children through 5 years of age.