McLeod receives grant to screen, treat infants exposed to drugs

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - In the wake of the opioid epidemic, McLeod Health is working to protect infants. Recently, the hospital announced the development of a new program to educate pregnant women and treat babies born to women with drug addictions through a grant from Duke Endowment.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, is when an infant is exposed to drugs in the womb. McLeod officials say NAS rates in South Carolina have doubled from 2010 to 2015 and are six times greater in rural areas.

"We've had such an explosion of addiction with moms when they're pregnant and it's also transferring into the baby when the baby's born," Jill Bramblett, Director of the McLeod Health Foundation said.

Bramblett feels a big part of the drug addiction epidemic part has to do with opioids.

"I think it's because there's been such easy access to especially opioids and it's been a huge problem. It's quadrupled," Bramblett said. "It's all now becoming a huge awareness in our entire country and we're all trying to make the best decisions for the mothers as well as the babies."

Just as the crisis grows, so does the need for education.

With the grant, McLeod will provide hospitals across the Pee Dee with NAS screening and treatment plans, something Bramblett says is vital to a baby's health.

"Once a baby's born, if we don't know how to treat them the baby goes through a lot of distress because they're actually coming off of the drug," Bramblett said.

Vomiting, seizures, and excessive crying are just some symptoms of the distress.

The new plan will not only help ease some of the distress, but may prove to be helpful for the mother.

"It's extremely vital for the babies to have...their moms to be educated on this so that when the babies born hopefully there is no addiction if we can get the mom off of the addiction," Bramblett said.

Along with the NAS screening and treatment plan, McLeod also received a grant from the Duke Endowment to help patients with diabetes.

For people with diabetes, poor oral health can cause an increase in blood sugar levels, and if left untreated, can result in a trip to the emergency room.

The grant money will fund developing a new model to address the oral health needs of diabetes patients, through education, risk assessment and treatment completion.

The new model is geared towards Medicaid and uninsured patients in the region who often lack access to dental care.

Bramblett said McLeod will also partner with Hope Health and other providers in the Florence area.

"This is going to be a collaborative effort through many partners to help us so that we can identify these patients and be able to help manage those patients in a better way for the we can maybe try to combat some of the problems that they're having," Bramblett said.

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