Improving the Child Welfare System to Respond to the Needs of Substance-Exposed Infants

Published in: Hospital Pediatrics (2019). doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0106

Posted on RAND.org on July 17, 2019

by Stephen W. Patrick, Richard G. Frank, Elizabeth McNeer, Bradley D. Stein

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Every day in the US 130 people die from an opioid overdose and nearly 90 infants are admitted to hospitals with opioid withdrawal, also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The health care system has been largely unprepared for the magnitude of this crisis. As the numbers of opioid-exposed infants grew, pediatricians focused primarily on improving clinical care. The breadth of the crisis requires alignments of the public health system, hospitals and our nation's child welfare system. Recent improvements to the child welfare system through federal legislative action have enabled the system to be more responsive to the unique needs of families affected by the opioid crisis, however more progress and funding are needed.

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