May 8, 2015 5:19 PM

Landrigan: Governor, key lawmakers get birds-eye view of neonatal ICU unit

"It’ll be kind of expensive to treat the moms; it’s a lot more expensive to treat the babies,’’ says Dr. Rebecca Ewing, chairwoman of the Prenatal Substance Exposure Task Force.

That’s the powerful message about trying to prevent addicted moms from having children suffering from opioid withdrawal.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and key legislators get a tour today of the neonatal intensive care unit at Elliot Hospital.

"We are in the middle of a substance misuse epidemic in New Hampshire and it’s really important for women who are pregnant to get treatment sooner rather than later,’’ Hassan said.

This unit sees 40 newborns a year and Dr. Kevin Petit reports the rate of children born to substance abusers has doubled two years in a row.

"When babies are born premature, there are times they are in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for three days and there are times they are in the NICU for three months,’’ said Michelle O’Malley, executive director of the New Hampshire chapter of March of Dimes who sponsored the tour.

A key obstacle was overcome when clinicians were allowed to communicate with one another on a patient’s case.

"So we were silo-ed and the moms were caught in the middle. This is not a patient who can advocate for herself sometimes,’’ Dr. Ewing added.


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