State Politics

Florida task force for drug-addicted babies convenes

Attorney General Pam Bondi and health leaders from around the state met in Tallahassee today to address the flood of babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

The task force was created by legislation passed this year to examine the problem of prescription drug abuse by expectant mothers, the costs associated with caring for babies suffering from neonatal withdrawal syndrome, the long-term effects of the syndrome, and prevention strategies.

The meeting mostly consisted of reviewing the harm caused to drug-addicted babies and organizing research duties. Mindy Young, a neonatal nurse from St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa, said some mothers think they’ve done everything right and don’t realize prescription drugs can harm a baby.

She too often sees newborn babies who won’t eat or respond to rocking—symptoms she’s come to associate with drug addiction.

“It’s a time of suffering and healing for families and babies,” she said.

Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, said getting a handle on the problem will also help save the state Medicaid dollars and other expenses associated with public health problems.

Bondi hopes the group will serve as a model for other state’s facing similar problems, she said.

“We’re going to see what we can do with less, and if we need more, see what we need to do to handle it,” Bondi said after the meeting.