August 11, 2017
The number of newborn babies exposed to illegal drugs during pregnancy continues to soar, according to a recent report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
At least 1,085 infants born at Southeastern Pennsylvania hospitals in 2016 were exposed to illegal drugs, the report found. That marked a 27.8 percent increase from 2013, when at least 849 infants were affected.
It's yet another impact of the burgeoning opioid crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives in Pennsylvania in recent years. Last year, the Keystone State recorded 4,642 overdose deaths, including 1,608 in Southeastern Pennsylvania, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
"The prescription opioid and heroin crisis is the most significant public health crisis facing the Commonwealth," said Wesley Culp, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. "Pregnant women and infants are impacted by the crisis."
Women who misuse or abuse opioids during pregnancy risk birthing an infant with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition with symptoms ranging from feeding difficulties to seizures.
Across Pennsylvania, the number of infants at risk has increased by 44 percent in just four years, according to the report. That comes as public officials seek ways to mitigate the opioid crisis.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, a move that is expected to help increase access to addiction treatment, expand treatment facilities and supply law enforcement officers with naloxone, an overdose antidote.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tom Wolf included several similar efforts in his budget proposal, including a $10 million allocation to provide naloxone to first responders and $26.2 million of federal funding to expand access to treatment services.
In its annual hospital report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health asks hospitals to list the number of live births "exposed to illegal drugs" as evidenced via urine screens, withdrawal symptoms and the mother's history.
In Philadelphia, the total of infants exposed to illegal drugs jumped from 381 in 2013 to 413 in 2016. But the latter total is likely higher.
Several hospitals, including Thomas Jefferson University and Temple University hospitals, did not report data in 2016. But four years ago, those two hospitals recorded the second- and third-highest totals in Philadelphia.
The survey used by the Department of Health to complete its annual report permits facilities to report an "unknown value" to certain questions, Culp said.
Likewise, figures in Delaware County could be higher, too. Crozer-Chester Medical Center has not reported data in the four years the state has collected it.
Delco has seen a 23.3 percent surge in babies exposed to illegal drugs since 2013.
During that same four-year stretch, Montgomery County saw a 40.8 percent increase.
Chester County recorded an 18.2 percent increase during that four-year span, but also saw a 42.2 percent drop from 2015 to 2016.
Similarly, Bucks County saw its total drop by 10.8 percent last year. But the county's 83 drug-exposed infants still marked a staggering 388 increase from 2013.
The following tables detail the number of drug-exposed babies born at each of the hospitals in the five-county region since 2013, according to information reported to state health department.
One note: The state changed its hospital and ambulatory surgery center reporting period changed from fiscal reporting to calendar-year reporting in 2016.
| Albert Einstein |
| Children's Hospital |
|Hahnemann University Hospital||42||4||Unknown||Unknown|
| Hospital of the University|
| St. Christopher's Hospital|
|Temple University Hospital||Unknown||Unknown||24||88|
| Thomas Jefferson |
|Grand View Health||32||24||27||17|
|St. Mary Medical Center||35||59||24||0|
|Chester County Hospital||32||31||0||1|
| Jennersville Regional |
| Crozer-Chester |
| Delaware County|
|Riddle Memorial Hospital||42||17||32||25|
|Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health||99||89||66||31|
| Einstein Medical Center|
|Holy Redeemer Hospital||58||42||43||34|
|Bryn Mawr Hospital||0||0||0||0|
|Lankenau Medical Center||82||77||Unknown||74|
| Pottstown Memorial|