After the NICU: Educational tools for those caring for babies bo - CBS46 News

After the NICU: Educational tools for those caring for babies born drug-dependent

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JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - A one-of a kind bill in Tennessee awaits the governor's signature. It would allow the courts to charge women with assault if they abuse drugs while pregnant and give birth to a drug addicted baby.

Tonight, opponents of that bill are calling on the Governor to veto it and those who care for the babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome are making a plea for help - an education in caring for babies with NAS.

As News Channel 11 reported last week, in 2013, Sullivan County reported the highest rate of babies born drug-dependent in the state - nearly five times higher than the state average, with the Northeast Region more than 3 times higher.

Families Free Executive Director Lisa Tipton heads up a work group through the Department of Children's Services that is focusing on ways to address the climbing NAS numbers in our area. Tipton told News Channel 11's Kylie McGivern, it wasn't until attending a recent seminar geared toward child care providers, that she learned of some very specific care techniques for NAS babies. It was that moment, that helped inspire her to make educational materials the first priority of the work group, providing answers to the question, "what happens after the NICU?"

Bringing a child home from the hospital for the first time can be daunting for any new mother, but especially for those caring for a baby born addicted to drugs. Mother Libby Scott adopted two children through the Department of Children's services born drug-dependent.

"I got my little boy when he was 11 days old," Scott said, "He was born addicted to Roxies."

"They told me that he couldn't be in daycare, that he had had a seizure at two days old, he came home with no meds but we had to watch him and - he had withdrawals for 4 months where he would shake really hard," Scott said. "It was a constant, trying to soothe him. And we had no guidance on how to deal with a drug-exposed baby. That was the hardest part."

No roadmap, for perhaps one of the most difficult roads of childcare to navigate.

Kylie: "Libby, what is something you know now, that you wished you would have known?"

Libby: "That they have therapies you can do, massage therapies to help soothe them. I didn't know that. I did a lot of humming and singing at night. We would do 2-3 hours of just holding and consoling him at night, trying to get him calm. If I had him in a crowd of people it would make his tremors worse."

"There's a lot of information that needs to be out, and unless these parent know where to go, they don't have a clue," Scott said.

The In Home Tennessee Substance Abuse Services work group, based in Johnson City, partners DCS with community stakeholders and is working to change that.

"The venue that we are hoping to use, is to do a training video where we have different professionals representing different areas of need, then a representative from the In Home Tennessee implementation team could go to hospitals before families leave with the babies, this training could be provided to foster parents, we could go into health departments, pediatricians offices, there will be a lot of different venues that will be made available to the community where they can access this information," Tipton said.

That information will include ways to feed, calm and soothe a baby with NAS, and what some of the issues a baby with NAS may have.

"We hear about the problems all the time with drug addicted babies, but there also are a lot of people that are wanting to provide hope and support and education to these mothers and family members - and not drive them further into isolation and shame and the moms and the babies not get what they need," Tipton said.

The biological moms, and mothers like Scott, who step in to fill a void created by addiction.

"Both the biological moms are incarcerated still for doing drugs," Scott said, "It's heartbreaking. And these children need a better life."

The In Home Tennessee work group will meet again next month at Families Free. For more information, contact Families Free Executive Director Lisa Tipton at

Previous Stories:

Sullivan County has the highest rate of drug dependent newborns in the state

Moms of drug-exposed newborns one step closer to facing jail time

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