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Program Helps Moms, Newborns Addicted To Opioids Get Help

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They are the smallest victims of the opioid crisis: babies born to addicted mothers.

The cost of care for the newborns: around 1.5 billion dollars a year in the U.S. But one area hospital is putting nurses on the front line, arming them with new training to help moms and babies.

When addicted moms are too ashamed to get medical treatment, the babies suffer. At Northwestern Medicine in Huntley, a new program is being launched to fight the stigma that keeps many of these women from seeking treatment sooner.

"At the time, I  was the deepest I ever had been in my addiction," said a young mother who did not want to be identified.

Still concerned for her child, she went to the doctor for prenatal care.

"They said if you continue to use we will not care you anymore," she said. "I think everyone thought how can you do this to an innocent child," she said.

It's the kind of shaming that keeps many women from seeking any prenatal treatment.

One national study showed infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome, when a baby is born withdrawing from drugs (NAS), stay in the hospital an average 17 days compared to two days for a baby with no complications.

The cost of the stay is more than $66,000 for a NAS baby compared to $3,500 for a healthy child.

"The opioid crisis is huge," said substance abuse nurse educator Judy Pasternack who said it even leads nurses to ask...

"Why can't this woman have been sober? Why can this woman, when she knew she was pregnant, just stop," added Pasternack.

Northwestern Medicine in Huntley wants to make sure its nurses recognize that their are values may be different than the patients. So they started a new training program that teaches about stigma and the disease of addiction.

"So that mix of understanding on your values and understanding the science of addiction helps a nurse to put those pieces together and go 'this woman is doing the best she can do right now in her life and I need to give her everything I have.' And that's the concept of the training." Pasternack said.

The mother, who had two relapses during her second pregnancy, is now drug free. And said she's appreciative of the people who understood her addiction and helped her get the treatment she needed.

"Nothing is going to get better if everybody's in the dark about the situation," she said.

The young mother wanted to share her story to encourage other women to get treatment.

She didn't get the help she needed with her first pregnancy and lost custody of that child who is now four.

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