HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (CIRCA) - For babies born addicted to drugs, there are few places strictly devoted to their treatment.
“Lily's Place is the first neonatal abstinence syndrome center in the country," said Rebecca Crowder, executive director at Lily's Place.
Nestled in between the mountains of West Virginia, Lily’s Place has helped over 200 babies dependent on drugs since first opening their doors in 2014.
“We care for the babies who are born prenatally exposed to drugs. We take them through the medical weaning process,” said Crowder.
West Virginia leads the country in the rate of babies born dependent on drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest data.
In 2017, 5 percent of babies born in West Virginia were born addicted, according to the state’s health department.
And some counties had rates as high as 10 percent.
"I know that the statistics are high, but I also feel like there's a reason our statistic are higher than everyone else's,” said Crowder.
“Locally here in Huntington, we do mandatory testing at our local hospitals of every person that gives birth. So everyone is being detected if that baby is prenatally exposed. Other states don't do that, so maybe their rates are higher and they don't even know it,” she continued.
West Virginia also had the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the country in 2016, according to the CDC, but other states have been hit hard as well by the drug crisis, including neighboring states Ohio and Kentucky.
“We're working to get where we can take babies from other states. Because right now, there's no funding for that, we have no contracts in place,” Crowder said.
“It's heartbreaking when I have a mom who lives in Ohio and calls and wants her baby to come here, and I have to say no because I don't have a payment," she said.
The number of babies born dependent ond rugs in West Virginia has increased over the last 10 years, according to Lily's Place co-founder and director of nursing Rhonda Edmunds, who has worked as a nurse for over 30 years.
“I was a nurse in the NICU at Cabell Huntington Hospital, and we were seeing lots and lots of babies being born drug affected,” Edmunds said.
“We were a 36 bed unit and at one point there were more than half of the beds were being utilized by babies who were born drug affected," she continued.
Up to 12 babies can stay at Lily’s Place at a time, and the length of stay can vary.
“We see a lot of polysubstance abuse here in our area, and so if you have a baby trying to withdraw from five different types of drugs versus one type, obviously it's going to be longer. Also, different drugs affect the baby differently. So, it could be anywhere from two weeks to two months based on what drugs were in their system," said Crowder.
And at Lily's Place, the parents' treatment is not forgotten.
“As soon as the parents come here, they go through an intake and we evaluate what are their needs. So with that, we're able to help them," Crowder said.
And Edmunds said the center is continuing to look forward and planning to add more resources to help parents struggling with addiction.
“We're getting ready to pilot a couple beds for rooming in so the mothers can stay here with their babies. We feel that's going to be more conducive for the healing process of the babies, but also the bonding between the mother and child," said Crowder.
“Addiction's not a choice. Nobody says I want to grow up and be an addict. I think that we need to really provide them with the support and care and not judge. That's the main thing about Lily's Place. This is a non-judgmental atmosphere. And it has to be that way, because we have to help them and build them up, not tear them down," she said.