Program aims high by helping addicted newborns

Perhaps the most upsetting, infuriating aspect of the losing battle Americans are fighting against drug abuse is the number of totally innocent victims: babies born addicted to drugs because their mothers used them.

Newborns suffering from what the health care community calls neonatal abstinence syndrome – drug addiction withdrawal – can be in agony for weeks. Their health can be affected for years.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has announced a new campaign to help babies suffering because of their mothers’ addictions to opiate painkillers and heroin. It is the Maternal Opiate Medical Support Project – MOMS.

The program aims at helping pregnant women kick their addictions so their babies never suffer from them. It also includes plans to improve care of such children after they are born.

At $4.2 million, MOMS has a hefty price tag. But clearly, the initiative is important.

During 2011, the Ohio Hospital Association reported 1,649 admissions for treatment of NAS. More than 19,000 days of hospital stays, at a cost of more than $70 million, were linked to the problem.

Unfortunately, MOMS is just a pilot project. It will provide drug addiction treatment and counseling for about 200 mothers and babies during a three-year period.

Eventually, however, MOMS is expected to pay off with programs to help even more mothers and their babies.

Purely from the standpoint of reducing health care costs – some of them covered by taxpayers – the initiative makes sense.

But it is even more important for reasons of compassion. Health care professionals who try to help babies with NAS say the process tears at their hearts.

Tiny, helpless infants in torture through no fault of their own young, innocent lives cry out for our help. Good for Kasich for launching the program. Let’s hope it does some good.