NEW ALBANY — Over the past few years, Baptist Health Floyd has seen a dramatic rise in the numbers of babies born with drug dependency. As the New Albany hospital faces overwhelming numbers, it is taking additional steps to provide the level of care needed in Southern Indiana.
Kosair Charities is donating $150,000 to the Floyd Memorial Foundation to help Baptist Health Floyd establish a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome unit at the hospital, including equipment, trained staff and a dedicated space on the fourth floor. The hospital, which hopes to open the unit by March, has received more than $200,000 in donations for the $1.1 million project.
The new department will allow the hospital to offer many services it currently is unable to provide, according to Floyd Memorial Foundation Executive Director Meredith Lambe. The donation from Kosair Charities is a giant step forward, she said.
"The amount of money [Kosair Charities] are giving to help permanently establish this unit to the Baptist Health Floyd Hospital is tremendous, because every day that goes by, those are babies that we're not helping, and to be able to put the wheels in motion to establish this department and give them the care that they desperately need is just heartwarming and just a wonderful gestures to our families here in Southern Indiana," she said.
With the unit, staff members will be able to immediately manage treatment of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, in addition to keeping the babies with their mothers and allowing them to bond throughout the withdrawal process. The grant will help the hospital purchase cardiac monitors and infant care centers, which will provide a safe, warm environment and monitor the infants' vital signs.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is caused by a mother's abuse of drugs during pregnancy. When the newborns are delivered, they are dependent on drugs and suffer from withdrawal, a process that may last about 10 to 17 days. Some of the symptoms include tremors, excessive crying, seizures, inability to feed, dehydration and fever.
Dr. Dan Eichenberger, president of Baptist Health Floyd, said he is thrilled about Kosair Charity's contributions to the hospital's new endeavor.
"Over the years, we’ve added and grown — we’ve added open heart surgery and very detailed procedures here at Floyd to expand our services — but one consistent thing has been our newborn care," he said. "We are excited and very pleased to finally add additional services for our newborns here at Baptist Health Floyd."
Kosair Charities President Keith Inman said the nonprofit is proud to help Baptist Health Floyd address the growing issues of addiction in the area.
"While this issue has occurred throughout history, it was different," he said. "It was a different substance, it was a different drug. And now we’re here to focus on what we can do to help Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Ten years ago we didn’t know what that was. And now, it’s the most pressing problem with our drugs, and we’re here to help you take care of that."
The numbers of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome has increased significantly from 2016 to 2018 at the hospital, and those infants have had to be transferred to a Louisville-based hospital with NICU/Level II treatment. In 2017, the hospital treated more than 100 pregnancy cases involving drugs, and in 2018, about 10 percent of babies born at the hospital showed signs of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The issue is widespread — Indiana has the eighth-highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Linda Minton, the hospital's director of Women's Services and Emergency Preparedness, said the new unit will help Baptist Health Floyd begin a "new chapter in women's health." The hospital will be training staff with its partners at Baptist Health Louisville, and staff are already ordering equipment for the unit.
"It's important that we here in Southern Indiana provide a safe place where our babies can be born and treated and cared for close to home and provide those services which can improve their chances for a healthy life," she said. "And to also see that our moms also get the care that they need to recover from addiction."
Minton said mothers often do not have the support they need while struggling with drug abuse. The new unit will allow the hospital to provide care to both mothers and their babies, in addition to helping the babies get through withdrawal.
"Oftentimes the mom doesn't have the support by the spouse or the significant other or the extended family," she said. "Oftentimes addiction is a family event, so the mom and the baby are going to go right back into that — we have to be able to head that off in the beginning. We need to be able to treat our babies, and then we need to treat the mom and provide social services so those babies can get a good chance and a good start."
Emily Banet, clinical manager of Women's Services at Baptist Health Floyd, said the upcoming unit will prevent the separation of mothers and infants.
"So when we have to send them across the river for treatment, we're separating the mom and the baby, which is never good," she said. "So with this, the biggest thing would be to keep the mom and the babies together and utilize that mom and that family unit to help treat that baby. Research shows that is really the best way to treat a baby — to do it as a family."