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August 11, 2017

Report: Number of infants exposed to illegal drugs soars in SE Pennsylvania

The heroin crisis plays a big role

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.


HOSPITAL 20162014-15 2013-14  2012-13
 Albert Einstein
Medical Center
 51 9252 94 
 Children's Hospital 
of Philadelphia
Unknown Unknown Unknown 21 
 Hahnemann University Hospital42 Unknown Unknown 
 Hospital of the University
of Pennsylvania
266 277 289 67 
 Pennsylvania Hospital54 15 13 20 
 St. Christopher's Hospital
for Children
 Temple University HospitalUnknown Unknown 24 88 
 Thomas Jefferson
University Hospital
Unknown Unknown 103 91 
 City Totals413 388481 381 
Statewide 3,897 3,755 3,119 2,706 


HOSPITAL 2016 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 
 Doylestown Hospital 16 10 17 
 Grand View Health32 24 27 17 
 St. Mary Medical Center 35 59 24 
 County Totals 8393 68 17 
 Statewide 3,8973,755 3,119 2,706 


HOSPITAL 2016 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 
 Chester County Hospital 32 31 
 Jennersville Regional 
Unknown 24 12 
 Paoli Hospital 10 13 17 
 Phoenixville Hospital11 25 21 26 
 County Totals52 90 46 44 
 Statewide3,897 3,755 3,119 2,706 


 HOSPITAL2016 2014-152013-14 2012-13 
Medical Center
Unknown Unknown  UnknownUnknown 
 Delaware County
Memorial Hospital
212 176 172 181 
 Riddle Memorial Hospital 42 17 32 25 
 County Totals254 193 204 206 
 Statewide3,897 3,755 3,119 2,706 


 HOSPITAL2016 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 
 Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health99 89 66 31 
 Einstein Medical Center
28 52 110 32 
 Holy Redeemer Hospital58 4243 34 
 Bryn Mawr Hospital
 Lankenau Medical Center82 77 Unknown 74 
 Pottstown Memorial
Medical Center
16 730 30 
County Totals283 267 249 201 
 Statewide3,897 3,755 3,119 2,706 

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