Ayotte Shines Light On Newborn Victims In Heroin Epidemic

May 18, 2015

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte sat down with medical staff and first responders at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester on Monday to discuss the growing number of infants being exposed to heroin and other opioids in the womb.

Ayotte announced she is co-sponsoring legislation along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) to address this issue. 

In the past year, 84 out of the 1200 babies born at the Catholic Medical Center were diagnosed with opioid withdrawals, which is more than double than the previous year. And nationally that number has tripled in the past 15 years.

Doctor William Edwards, who directs the hospital’s newborn care, says in order to attack this issue, the community needs to address the underlying mental issues that are driving pregnant mothers to use.

“About 70 to 75 percent of the women who have addiction problems have co-existing psychiatric illnesses and almost never is there any sort of coordinated approach to treating their psychiatric diagnoses at the same time as their addiction management," Edwards said.

Doctor Michelle Nathan, a physician at the hospital, echoed that same notion, adding that more than 20 percent of those who were treated for overdoses at the Catholic Medical Center have returned. Which, Nathan, says shows there is a failure in treating the root causes of a patient's addiction.

Last year the Catholic Medical Center's emergency department treated 216 patients for heroin-related illnesses, which cost on average $12,000 per patient.

Mayor Ted Gatsas of Manchester, who also participated in the roundtable discussion, says he hopes Manchester can become a model in addressing this heroin crisis. Gatsas says he is working hard on getting a drug court built in his city, as well as reaching out to dozens of employers to give ex-drug felons a second chance. 

Ayotte says that there needs to be a multifaceted approach, but stressed that this is a national issue that no state has been able to fully lick.