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urges emergency funding for newborns addicted to drugs
By Ryan Lavis | email@example.com
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on December 21, 2015 at 6:35 PM, updated December 22, 2015
at 6:38 AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for
what he calls an "emergency surge" of federal funds to hospitals on
Staten Island and elsewhere to help treat and reduce the number of babies born
addicted to drugs.
Mothers who continue to abuse prescription pills and other
opiates during pregnancy often give birth to babies who experience excruciating
withdrawal symptoms for their first few months out of the womb — a medical
condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
The Advance first reported recently on the significant
increase in the number of NAS cases per year on Staten Island.
So far in 2015, there have been about 16 babies born with
drug dependencies at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton,
according to Dr. Anthony Barone, director of the hospital's Neonatal Intensive
During the second week of November alone, the medical center
had six newborns in intensive care suffering from NAS, he said.
In 2014, a combined total of 27 babies were born suffering
from NAS at RUMC and Staten Island University Hospital in Ocean Breeze.
To address the issue, Schumer (D-NY) on Monday went to RUMC
to announce his plan to use funds from the just-passed federal appropriations
bill to help stem the troubling rise in NAS cases.
The bill recently allocated $47 million towards the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and now
Schumer is calling on the federal agency to dedicate a portion to help treat,
prevent and promote public awareness of NAS.
"Not one more baby should have to suffer like
this," Schumer said.
"Thousands of infants are born each year with drug
dependencies, and now that we have this federal funding in the budget, we must
act by creating an emergency allocation of funding to help localities — like
Staten Island -- address and fight this tragically growing trend," he
Schumer was joined on Monday by Assemblyman Michael Cusick
(D-Mid-Island) and Staten Island District Attorney-elect Michael McMahon, both
of whom echoed his call to action.
Also speaking was Dr. Daniel J. Messina, President and CEO
of RUMC, as well as Dr. Barone.
Barone says his staff has seen firsthand the toll a mother's
drug abuse can take on her newborn.
NAS generally presents symptoms in the first 48 to 72 hours
after birth, which can include increased muscle tone, inconsolable, high-pitch
cries, irritability, fever, severe shaking, loose stools and vomiting.
"The nurses are on the front lines.... I give them a
lot of credit because they're dealing with the babies nonstop, 24-hours a
day," Barone said. "It's heartbreaking for them."
Barone noted that additional funding for hospitals could be
used toward education and other preventative measures for mothers addicted to
drugs, or could even add more staff to help with the demands that come with
caring for a baby who is going through opioid withdrawals.
Schumer said he is still working out the details in regards
to exactly how much money should be allocated to the hospitals.
"Specific emergency dedication of NAS funding will help
make sure our hospitals have the additional resources they need to help curtail
the trend," Schumer said.