NAS Births Remain Elevated Halfway Through 2018

In 2016, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) began tracking cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in the Commonwealth. Our initial analysis of trend line data led us to forecast that barring a significant shift in policy and outcomes, the number of NAS births would quadruple by 2018.1 Regrettably, that ominous projection became reality in 2017, one year earlier than expected. VHHA routinely tracks NAS as a measure of maternal and infant wellbeing, and data from the first two quarters of 2018 indicates NAS rates are holding constant, neither increasing nor decreasing from comparable periods last year. NAS is characterized as a condition afflicting newborns who enter the world withdrawing from exposure to drugs in the womb due to substance use by mothers during pregnancy. The result of this exposure often leads to extended, and expensive, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stays for infants who experience short-term discomfort during withdrawal, and who may also face long-term developmental problems.2 NAS infants typically require three months of ambulatory care during withdrawal. In recent years, Virginia has enhanced funding for pregnant women needing substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, and focused energy on the development programs focused on NAS reduction. VHHA will continue to monitor these trends and work with policymakers and providers focused on substance use treatment and prevention efforts. (9/28)