Babies born addicted to drugs have swamped the neonatal intensive care unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital for the past two years. That is one sad way to come into the world.
State Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, who is also executive director of the state medical association, estimated the cost of treating newborn drug addiction at Cabell Huntington at $23 million a year, most of it paid by the state's Medicaid program.
Some good people looked for an alternative and found one in Kent, Wash., where the Pediatric Interim Care Center has helped wean babies from drugs since 1980. Over the years, the center has helped more than 2,500 babies go through the arduous first weeks of their lives.
This should lead by early fall to the opening of Lily's Place, a former medical office in Huntington that is being converted into a pediatric addiction recovery facility.
Yes, a drug rehab center for newborns. Infants are paying the price for drug abuse in West Virginia. One in 13 babies at Cabell Huntington is born addicted.
"When you have a baby that's addicted to drugs, you don't need to have baby MRIs or X-rays if those babies are born healthy otherwise and all they have going on is the drug addiction," said Mary Calhoun Brown, secretary of the board of directors of Lily's Place.
Weaning newborns from drugs creates a very big need that very big hearts are trying to fill - the right way, by learning from a longstanding program in Washington state.