Roughly 5 percent of babies born in 2017 in West Virginia suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) — a withdrawal syndrome that occurs after prenatal exposure to drugs is discontinued suddenly at birth.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has released county-level NAS data, showing the overall incidence rate was 50.6 cases per 1,000 live births, or 5.06 percent.
The highest incidence rate of NAS was 106.6 cases per 1,000 live births (10.66 percent) in Lincoln County, followed by Marshall County, where the incidence rate was 102.1 cases per 1,000 live births (10.21 percent).
Two counties (Pleasants and Pendleton) had no infants with NAS; all other counties had at least one documented case.
The release said data for 27 counties, including Monroe, Summers and Wyoming, were suppressed due to low occurrence of NAS and the need to protect confidentiality for the infants and their families. As more years of data are collected, data will become available for all counties.
“West Virginia is one of a few states that collects NAS surveillance data and is serving as a model for other states across the nation,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “By releasing county data, we will be able to understand the impact of NAS at the local level and establish baseline data for program planning and management.”
The data, compiled by DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, Office of Maternal Child and Family Health (OMFCH), with support from West Virginia University’s Department of Pediatrics Birth Score Office, provide insight to both state and county level data for NAS.
“West Virginia is in the midst of a child welfare crisis and the prevalence of NAS is at the forefront of our issues,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet secretary. “We have seen a 46 percent increase in the number of children we take into custody and 84 percent of all child protective service cases involve drug use. Children across our state have suffered more than anyone because of the drug epidemic and these NAS numbers quantify this tragedy.”
In response to this crisis, DHHR has implemented a number of strategies, including securing a first-of-its-kind approval for the treatment of NAS through Medicaid.
In addition, under the direction of Gov. Jim Justice, DHHR has worked with the West Virginia Legislature to secure funding for Drug Free Moms and Babies, services for the families of children born with NAS, and prevention-based contraceptive strategies for men and women with substance use disorder.
Infants with NAS often require longer hospital stays to monitor and treat withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, feeding difficulties, excessive crying, and sensitivity to stimuli. Pharmacological treatment such as small doses of morphine or methadone may be needed to manage withdrawal symptoms; the infant is then slowly weaned off under the supervision of a medical team.
Locally, Fayette County’s data shows 7.09 percent of babies born in 2017 suffered from NAS, while Greenbrier followed at 6.42 percent and Nicholas showed a 6.07 percent rate. Raleigh’s percentage rate was 3.6. The data for Summers County was suppressed.
For county-specific data, visit dhhr.wv.gov/bph.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren