Vermont tops list for opioid use during pregnancy

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new study on mothers hooked on opiates giving birth. The data from 28 states show an increase in the number of babies born around the country with a disease connected to their mothers' drug use. Vermont ranked highest, averaging about 33 per 1,000 births.

But the medical director at the UVM Medical Center's birthing center, Dr. Marjorie Meyer, says those numbers may be deceiving. She told our Dom Amato why Vermont's number of births of babies with opioid-related diseases are so much higher than the numbers from other states.

"We've been able to watch it for a long time," Meyer said.

Vermont's numbers have risen dramatically since 2001, the first year data was made available.

In 2001, less than one baby (0.7) in 1,000 was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

In 2013, the latest year data was available, that rose to 33.3 babies per 1,000 births.

"Our actual number of deliveries in our state is relatively low compared to a lot of states, so our denominator is on the low side, as well," Meyer said.

Meyer says the UVM Medical Center has heavily focused on this since 2006. She says they have created a culture that encourages addicted pregnant women to get treatment.

"The more accessible you make treatment, the more you offer women treatment in a recovery environment as opposed to a punitive environment," Meyer said.

"Over the years, we've evolved into being a treatment program as society has changed and the needs of families have changed, as well," Barbara Rachelson said.

Rachelson is the executive director at Lund. It's just one of the organizations that can help expecting mothers-- and new moms-- get on the road to recovery.

"We want those kids to be raised by parents who aren't addicted," Rachelson said.

Lund offers many resources for families, including addiction medication, job training classes, high school and college courses.

Rachelson also brings up that there are many other addictive substances that Vermonters deal with apart from opiates that can harm families and newborns.