COVINGTON, Ky. -- More than 1,400 newborns in Northern Kentucky were treated for drug withdrawal in 2012 and the heroin epidemic has only grown worse.
Leadership Northern Kentucky has partnered with Transitions, Inc. to provide housing and support for expecting mothers fighting heroin addiction.
Now the Healthy Newborn House, which opened Friday, gives mothers and infants a home to recover in for up to four months after birth.
At St. Elizabeth Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, doctors and nurses know the problem all too well.
"The babies that we care for who have been exposed in utero, once they are born, they have withdrawal symptoms just like adults would have," said Dr. Ward Rice.
That means they shake and have diarrhea - even cold chills and sweats.
"The babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome made up about 12% of all of our admissions to this NICU," Rice said.
In 2011, St. E's delivered 26 babies addicted to heroin.
But that number has tripled to 80 in only two years.
"Most of the babies are here to three weeks while we try to get them off of opiates," Rice said.
"A lot of the babies will have developmental issues and need to be in programs like First Steps for their development because they are at risk for developmental delays."
Pregnant women addicted to heroin shouldn't quit cold turkey because that could kill the baby.
Instead, they should seek treatment immediately.
The Healthy Newborn House gives moms life skills training, addiction and education support, and assistance in looking for permanent housing.
For more information on the Healthy Newborn House or to make a donation, CLICK HERE.