New fund will help youngest victims of opioid crisis

New Hampshire Union Leader
October 8, 2017

CONCORD — An anonymous donor, touched by the fate of babies born to opioid addicted mothers, is donating millions of dollars to address the problem.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is scheduled to announce the new fund Tuesday, along with representatives from the state Department of Health and Human Services and other partners in the project.

“We are talking about potentially changing the trajectory of hundreds of our youngest citizens and giving them a leg up on life,” said Tym Rourke, the foundation’s Director of Substance Use Disorders Grantmaking and Strategic Initiatives, who also chairs the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

The most recent statistics from DHHS show a steady increase in the number of newborns discharged with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in the decade from 2000 to 2011. In the first four years of the decade, there were only two NAS births per year, but the number started to climb in 2004 and each year thereafter, reaching 150 NAS births by 2011.

And that was before the opioid addiction crisis really started to take hold in 2012.

“We have some hospitals now reporting one in 10 births in their birthing unit is an NAS child,” said Rourke. “It speaks to the fact that there has been significant growth in babies who are born suffering from complications attributable to substance abuse disorders in their parents.”

The money will be used to fund programs in three areas: medical research on best practices for serving addicted mothers and their babies; support for treatment programs including residential services; and a public awareness campaign aimed at expectant mothers.

“We have made a number of grants that are going to be featured on Tuesday and we are actively talking with other providers in the addiction and health care space as to where these resources can be maximized to achieve these goals,” said Rourke.

The partners and grant recipients scheduled to join Rourke at the foundation offices in Concord include representatives from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which has done pioneering research in this area.

Concord Hospital, which is also exploring new therapies, will be involved as well.

Other partners or grant recipients include Memorial Hospital in North Conway, Families in Transition – New Horizons, Hope on Haven Hill, Keystone Hall and the Partnership for a Drug Free New Hampshire.

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