Report Finds RI Newborns Exposed To Drugs And Alcohol Nearly Doubled From 2006

Apr 13, 2015

The number of babies born with exposure to opioid drugs and alcohol nearly doubled in Rhode Island between 2006 and 2013. 

That’s one of the more startling facts in the new Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook. Executive Director Elizabeth Burke-Bryant said unlike earlier drug problems, this one is not concentrated in urban areas.

“90 percent of babies born with drugs in their system, were born to white mothers and 32 percent lived in the four core cities, which means the majority of these cases are spread to the rest of Rhode Island,” said Bryant.

Burke-Bryant said babies born in withdrawal from opioid exposure can face long lasting health problems and often need immediate medical attention.

“Babies born with this syndrome are associated with increased risk of prematurity, respiratory implications, low birth rate and seizures as well as neurological and central nervous system problems and developmental delays.”

Burke-Bryant said these newborns face negative and long-term effects from their exposure to drugs or alcohol.

The report also highlights nearly 4,000 Rhode Islanders have qualified for new state program that provides some income for people who have to take unpaid leave when they have a new baby or a sick relative. Burke-Bryant says she was surprised to see how quickly the program caught on.

“The bottom line here is that we’re really seeing this new policy, new law being used widely when we’re looking at 3,870 approved claims in the first year alone,” said Burke-Bryant.

Kids Count finds that 74 percent of the claims for the state’s temporary caregiver insurance program were to bond with a new baby. Roughly a quarter were from people who were caring for a sick relative.

When it comes to education, wide gaps in the rate of college enrollment remain between suburban Rhode Island students and their urban peers. According to the report, in the state’s four core cities, that’s Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket, only 38 percent of all students immediately enroll in college following high school. 

Burke-Bryant said that’s compared to nearly 70 percent of their peers living in the rest of the state.

“And that shows a real college access gap that is absolutely critical to close if we’re going to have the kind of prepared workforce that we know we’ll be looking for.”

Bryant said by 2020, almost all jobs will require some post-secondary education beyond high school.  Two thirds of the state’s poorest students live in the four core cities.

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