LEWISTON, N.Y. -- Some shocking new numbers are out showing the scope of the heroin crisis in Western New York. Babies born in Niagara County are more likely to be born addicted to drugs than in any other county in the state.
The numbers from the state are not broken down by the type of drug the newborns are addicted to, but with the opioid epidemic getting worse, health care workers at Mount Saint Mary's Hospital in Lewiston want families to know help is out there for everyone.
"What I'm hearing from my friends who are Niagara County Sheriff's [Deputies] and Niagara Falls Police, is that they're giving Narcan out four or five times a night," says Director of Maternity Services at Mount St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, Maryann Cogdill.
Cogdill knows all too well the impact drug use, especially opioid and heroin abuse, is having on our communities.
“We see the very rich and the very poor. We see our professionals. It happens to good people. It's a bad problem," she says.
Cogdill says around 20-percent of the moms who give birth at her hospital are struggling with substance abuse. The State Department of Health says between 2012 and 2014, 725 drug-addicted babies were born in Erie County. But based on population, babies born in Chautauqua and Niagara County are more likely to be born addicted to drugs.
Two-hundred and thirteen babies were born chemically exposed in Niagara County over this three-year period.
"In about the 24 to 48 hour we see certain symptoms that are common for addicted babies. The bicycling of the feet, digestive problems, their skin breaks out, crying continuous, constantly crying," says Cogdill.
Mount St. Mary's helps the babies withdraw without the use of drugs. The more severe cases get sent to Children's Hospital where the newborns are treated with methadone. But in Lewiston next month, a Cuddler Program is starting where volunteers will gently rock the babies to comfort them as they go through withdrawal.
"A lot of babies, instead of the traditional rocking like this, a lot of them like to be held like this kind of up and down. We're not really sure why that is, but we do notice that it does provide them with more comfort for whatever reason," says Rachel Dunn, RN.
Cogdill says it's also key that medical professionals offer non-judgmental support. She offers this advice.
"Even if you're not planning to get pregnant, you may get pregnant. So, think twice about that substance that you may take or short term pain management and we just need to kind of take care of ourselves that way," says Cogdill.
Mount St. Mary's is looking for volunteers for the Cuddler Program. You would come in and hold the babies for three to four hours at a time and rock them. Cogdill says former nurses and teachers would make great volunteers.