CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — As the nation deals with the devastation of the opioid addiction crisis, another set of victims is overwhelming social services: addicted infants and children.
The tiniest of them need foster parents and in Charlottesville, one agency is at the forefront of helping to save those young lives.
“Every 15 minutes, a baby is born to a woman with opioid use disorder or for opioid addiction,” said Dr. Mark Mendelsohn, the medical director at Foothills Child Advocacy Center.
He is on the front lines of the battle to treat babies suffering from drug withdrawal during their first days of life.
It’s a crisis that continues to grow.
He says Southwest Virginia is the hardest hit with up to 100 babies per 1,000 live births being born addicted to opioids.
But when those children cannot go to the home of their parents, they have to go into foster care.
People Places of Charlottesville helps place the addicted newborns in foster homes. Spencer Eavers says the secondary victims of the opioid crisis range in age.
“The children are the innocent bystanders in all of this and that’s everything from an infant to older children,” she said.
An experienced foster mom who prefers to remain anonymous has nurtured four drug-exposed infants. The latest little one was four days old when she said yes to People Places.
But she says his ne are great and have to be met 24 hours a day.
“When he doesn’t feel that human contact, he just screams,” she said.
Experts say in some cases, some babies will scream, vomit, and shake uncontrollably as they withdraw from the powerful painkillers in their system.
For the one foster mom, she knows the best medicine for her foster son is simple love, but she also understands there’s an emotional price to pay.
“They need that attachment and they need someone to love them that much, they need someone to love them so much, their heart will shatter when they leave,” she said. “I look at this little guy that I am holding and I am like what would his life be like without someone to hold him and love him?”
Mendelsohn has high praise for such foster parents, calling them “saviors.”