Washington State Uses Guidelines and Programs to Reduce the Number of Drug- and Alcohol-Exposed Babies

April 01, 2015|9:40 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 infants born each year in Washington state are exposed prenatally to illegal drugs or alcohol, of which about 10 percent are drug- or alcohol-affected. Prescription drug abuse by pregnant women is also a growing issue and can result in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), the postnatal drug withdrawal caused by misuse and abuse of opioid analgesics, medications, or illicit drugs.

The Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) collaborated with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (WSDSHS) to provide prenatal substance abuse screening tools to providers to identify women with abuse patterns and connect them with treatment. The screening tools consist of two publications, which are best practice guides for healthcare professionals: Substance Abuse During Pregnancy: Guidelines for Screening and Management (revised 2015) and Guidelines for Testing and Reporting Drug Exposed Newborns in Washington State (revised 2014). With these guidelines in place, CDC’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System results show that most women in Washington State are now being screened for illicit drug use by their providers when receiving prenatal care.

WSDSHS has also funded the Parent Child Assistance Program (PCAP), an effective maternal substance abuse intervention. Numerous PCAP outcome studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals and demonstrate consistently positive outcomes among mothers, for example: Seventy-four percent completed substance abuse treatment, 53 percent were abstinent from alcohol/drugs for at least one year while in program, 72 percent were using a family planning method on a regular basis, and 90 percent had no subsequent birth or an unexposed subsequent birth three years after program entry.

Using evidence-based approaches was a key to success in the state. WSDOH and WSDSHS continue to promote strategies that encourage primary care providers to talk with patients at each visit about substance abuse and pregnancy.

This post was adapted from "Washington State Guidelines and Programs Reduce the Number of Alcohol and Drug-Exposed Babies," a story in ASTHO's Have You Shared? collection.