Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

New campaign aims to reduce babies born addicted to pills

TAMPA —More than 1,500 Florida babies are born each year already addicted to powerful prescription painkillers.

Excruciating withdrawal can take three weeks — just as with an adult addict.

"I saw these babies, and it changes your life," state Attorney General Pam Bondi said Friday. "They have to be covered with blankets. They're sensitive to light and sound. And they don't cry, they shriek."

Bondi and other state officials gathered at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital to announce a public awareness campaign designed to fight newborn addiction. It will urge pregnant women to discuss painkiller use with their doctors — even if they are taking the drugs illegally.

The overall message will be "when you use prescription drugs during pregnancy, you are hurting two people,'' said Rob Siedlecki, the Department of Children and Families' assistant secretary for substance abuse.

The campaign, Born Drug-Free Florida, will feature a website, 20 to 50 billboards across the state and thousands of radio and television spots, Siedlecki said. DCF will spend $300,000 to pay for it.

Bondi said the initiative had its origins in a phone call from a nurse at St. Joseph's, where officials estimate that 15 percent of babies in its neonatal unit are addicted to opiate-based painkillers such as OxyContin. They are often treated with methadone to help them through detoxification.

Bondi visited the hospital, peered into incubators and heard the cries. Some babies struggle to breathe, others have seizures. At Bondi's urging, the Legislature authorized a task force to examine the scope of the problem.

Earlier this year, the task force reported that babies going through withdrawal — formally diagnosed as "neonatal abstinence syndrome'' — ring up five times the hospital cost of a healthy baby. In fiscal 2011-12, they cost the state Medicaid program $32 million.

More and more babies are needing detoxification — a reflection of increased painkiller abuse in adults, said Doug Leonardo, executive director of BayCare Behavioral Health.

In the last five years, the number of people seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse has shot up 445 percent, he said. Prescription drug problems now account for more than half of children removed from their homes by state.

Bondi said officials from other states are seeing the same trends and have requested copies of the Florida task force report and information on the public awareness campaign.

"We want to make Florida the pioneer for the rest of the country,'' Bondi said

Some campaign billboards are already up in the Tampa Bay area, and the website is up and running at www.borndrugfreefl.com.

New campaign aims to reduce babies born addicted to pills 05/10/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 10, 2013 9:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.