IJnitetd States General Accounting Office * 8 I ! j (-&Q-J Report to the Chairman, Committee on > *I1 1 Finance, ‘U.S. Senate ~-- - .I II tt(b 1!I!)0 DRUG-EXPOSED INFANTS A Generation at Risk 141697 -.-- ;;Ao/rrKr,-!,o-l:rH United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 Human Resources Division B-238209 June 28,199O The Honorable Lloyd Bentsen Chairman, Committee on Finance United States Senate Dear Mr. Chairman: This report responds to your request, in which you expressedconcern over the growing number of infants born to mothers using drugs and the impact this is having on the nation’s health and welfare systems. Specif- ically, you asked that we assessthe (1) extent of the problem; (2) health effects and medical costs of infants born exposedto drugs compared with the costs of those who were not; (3) impact of these births on the social welfare system; and (4) availability of drug treatment and pre- natal care to drug-addicted pregnant women. Unlike the drug epidemics of the 1960sand 197Os,which primarily Background involved men addicted to heroin, the current drug epidemic has affected many women of childbearing age.The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimated that in 1988,5 million women of childbearing age used illicit drugs.’ Experts attribute the increase in female drug users to the existence of crack or smokable cocaine,which is readily accessible,a relatively low cost drug, and easier to use than drugs that must be injected. Cocaine,other drugs and alcohol are often used in combination. Use of cocaine and other drugs during pregnancy may affect both the mother and the developing fetus. Cocaine,for example, may causecon- striction of blood vesselsin the placenta and umbilical cord, which can result in a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus, leading to poor fetal growth and development. Although definitive information doesnot exist about the long-term effects of drug use during pregnancy, researchershave reported that someinfants who were prenatally exposedto stimulant drugs like cocaine have suffered from a stroke or hemorrhage in the areas of the brain responsible for intellectual capacities. ’ Frequently used illicit drugs include crack cocaine, heroin, PCP, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and barbiturates. Page I GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants 1 B.228208 . , In addition to the effects of prenatal drug exposure, drug-abusing preg- nant women often imperil their health and that of their infants in other ways. These women do not receive the benefits of proper health care. The majority of women of childbearing age who abuse drugs suffer from many social, psychological, and economicproblems. The Office of National Drug Control Policy is responsible for developing an annual national anti-drug strategy.2The 1990 National Drug Control Strategy calls for spending $10.6 billion in fiscal year 1991, with 71 per- cent of the funds going to drug-supply-reduction activities and 29 per- cent to reduce the demand for drugs. Under this strategy, $1.6 billion would be spent on drug treatment with over one-half of the federal funds provided through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) block grants to the states administered by the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA). The states are required to set aside at least 10 percent of these funds to provide drug abuse pre- vention and treatment for women. In addition, the Office for SubstanceAbuse Prevention within ADAMHA has a program that provides demonstration grants to public and private providers for model projects for substance-abusingpregnant and post- partum women and their infants. Moreover, two federal-state health programs are potentially available to pregnant women who abusedrugs. First, the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant program (MCH), authorized by title V of the Social Security Act, provides grants to the states for health servicesto low- income persons, One of the purposes of MCH is to reduce infant mor- tality and the incidence of preventable diseasesand handicapping condi- tions among children, frequent consequencesof drug abuseby pregnant women. Second,the Medicaid program, authorized by title XIX of the Social Security Act, provides federal financial assistanceto the states for a broad range of health services for low-income persons.One group of people that states are required to cover under Medicaid is low-income pregnant women. Those pregnant drug abuserswho have low incomes could qualify for servicesunder either of these programs. We interviewed leading neonatologists, drug treatment officials, Objectives, Scope,and researchers,hospital officials, social welfare authorities, and drug- Methodology addicted pregnant women to determine: (1) the nqmber of drug-exposed 2The Office of National Drug Control Policy was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Page 2 GAO/HRBQ@138 Drug-Exposed Infants . B-233209 infants, (2) their impact on the medical and social services systems, (3) their health costs, and (4) the availability of drug treatment and pre- natal care. We also reviewed the current literature. We obtained data on drug-exposedbirths from 1986 through 1988 from HHS to develop a nationwide estimate of the number of drug-exposed infants. The National Hospital Discharge Survey collects information on the diagnosesassociatedwith hospitalization of adults and newborns in all nonfederal short-stay hospitals. Newborn discharge data from the survey for 1986 and 1988 were used to calculate nationwide estimates. We also selectedtwo hospitals in each of five cities-Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Antonio-in which we reviewed med- ical records to determine the number of drug-exposedinfants born and to assessdifferences in hospital charges between drug-exposedand nonexposedinfants. These 10 hospitals, which accounted for 44,655 births in 1989, primarily served a high proportion of persons receiving Medicaid and other forms of public assistance.Births at these hospitals ranged from 5 percent of all infants in New York City to 42 percent of all births in San Antonio. We considered an infant to be drug-exposedif any of the following conditions were documented in the medical record of the infant or mother: (1) mother self-reported drug use during preg- nancy, (2) urine toxicology results for mother or infant were positive for drug use, (3) infant diagnosed as having drug withdrawal symptoms, or (4) mother was diagnosed as drug dependent3 We also interviewed offi- cials at 10 other hospitals in these cities that serve predominantly non- Medicaid patients, but we did not review patient medical records. Our methodology is discussedmore fully in appendix VI. Our work was performed from January through April 1990 in accor- dance with generally acceptedgovernment auditing standards. The results are summarized below and are discussedmore fully in appen- dixes I through IV. Identifying infants who have been prenatally exposed to drugs is the Many Drug-Exposed key to providing them with effective medical and social interventions at Infants Who Might birth and as they grow up. Such identification is also necessaryto Need Help Are Not understand the nature and magnitude of the problem in order to target drug treatment and prenatal care servicesto drug-addicted pregnant Identified * women and other servicesto infants. 3Alcohol use during pregnancy was not included in our definition of maternal drug use. Page 3 GAO/HRD-SO-133 Drug-Exposed Infanta B.238209 . There is no consensuson the number of infants prenatally exposedto drugs each year. The administration’s 1989 National Drug Control Strategy reported that an estimated 100,000 infants were exposedto cocaineeach year.4The president of the National Association for Per- inatal Addiction Researchand Education estimates as many as 375,000 infants may be drug exposedeach year. Neither estimate, however, is based on a national representative sample of births. Our analysis of the National Hospital Discharge Survey identified 9,202 infants nationwide with indications of maternal drug use during preg- nancy in 1986.”By 1988, the latest year that data were available, the number had grown to 13,765 infants. 6a7However, this represents a sub- stantial undercount of the total problem becausephysicians and hospi- tals do not screen and test all women and their infants for drugs. Researchhas found that when screening and testing is uniformly applied, a much higher number of drug-exposedinfants are identified. For example, one recent study documented that hospitals that assess every pregnant woman or newborn infant through rigorous detection procedures, such as a review of the medical history and urine toxicology for drug exposure, had an incidence rate that was three to five times greater than hospitals that relied on less rigorous methods of detection.R The average incidence of drug-exposedinfants born at hospitals with rigorous detection procedures was closeto 16 percent of those hospitals’ births, as compared with 3 percent at hospitals with no substanceabuse assessment. A study conducted at a large Detroit hospital accounting for over 7,000 births used meconium testing,” a more sensitive test for detecting drug use. The incidence of drug-exposedinfants at this hospital was 42 per- cent or nearly 3,000 births in 1989. In contrast, when self-reported drug 4The strategy does not mention the number of infants exposed to other drugs. “The estimate ranged from 7,178 to 11,226 at a g&percent confidence interval. “The estimate ranged from 8,259 to 19,271 at a 96percent confidence interval, 7This survey identified drug-exposed infants baaed on discharge codes indicating that the infant was affected by maternal drug use or showed drug withdrawal symptoms. Discharge codes refer to the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modifications ICD-O-CM,3rd edition: codes 760.70,760.72,760.73, and 779.6. sIra J. Chasnoff, “Drug Use and Women: Establishing a Standard of Care,” Prenatal Use of Licit and Illicit Drugs, ed., Donald E. Hutchings, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1989. “Meconium is the first 2- to 3-days’ stool of a newborn infant. Page 4 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infanta . E2382oB use by the mother was the basis for identifying drug-exposedinfants, only 8 percent or nearly 600 infants were identified.10 Likewise, our work indicates that the National Hospital Discharge Survey undercounts the incidence of drug-exposedbirths. In our exami- nation of medical records at 10 hospitals, we identified approximately 4,000 drug-exposedinfants born in 1989. Our estimates ranged from 13 drug-exposedbirths per thousand births at one hospital to 181 per thou- sand births at another. The wide range in the numbers of drug-exposedinfants we found may be associatedwith differences in the hospitals’ efforts to identify drug- exposedinfants. One hospital, for example, did not have a protocol for assessingdrug use during pregnancy. This hospital had the lowest inci- denceof drug-exposedinfants. The other 9 hospitals’ protocols required testing primarily if the mother reported her drug use or the infant mani- fested drug withdrawal signs. Hospital officials acknowledge that these screeningcriteria allow many drug-exposedinfants to go undetected in the hospital. This is becausemany drug-exposedinfants display few overt drug withdrawal signs and many women deny using drugs out of fear of being incarcerated or having their children taken from them. We also found that in hospitals serving primarily non-Medicaid patients, screening for drug exposure was even less prevalent. In our interviews with hospital officials at these hospitals, one-half of the hospitals did not have a protocol for identifying drug use during pregnancy. Some hospital officials told us that the problem of prenatal drug exposure was not considered serious enough to warrant implementing a drug testing protocol. However, one recent study has found that the problem of drug use during pregnancy is just as likely to occur among privately insured patients as among those relying on public assistancefor their health care. This study anonymously tested for drug use among women entering private obstetric care and women entering public health clinics for prenatal care and found that the overall incidence of drug use was “‘Enrique M. Ostrea, Jr., A Prospective Study of the Prevalence of Drug Abuse Among Pregnant Women. Its Impact on Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality and on the Infant Mortality Rate in Detroit. July 13, 1989, preliminary report. Page 6 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants ‘ B-228208 similar between the two groups (16.3 percent for women seenat public clinics and 13.1 percent for those seenat private offices).” (Seeapp. I.) Drug-exposedinfants are more likely than infants not exposedto drugs Drug-Exposed Infants to suffer from a greater range of medical problems and in somecases Have More Health require costly medical care. We compared the medical problems and Problems and Are costs of infants prenatally exposedto drugs, with those who were not, at four hospitals. At these four, we determined that at least 10 percent More Costly of the infants were prenatally exposedto drugs.‘2The mothers of the drug-exposedinfants were more likely to have had little or no prenatal care, and the infants had significantly lower birth weights, were often premature, and had longer and more complicated hospital stays than other infants. Given these medical problems, hospital chargesfor drug-exposedinfants were up to four times greater than those for infants with no indication of drug exposure. For example, at one hospital the median charge for drug-exposedinfants was $6,600, while the median charge incurred by nonexposedinfants was $1,400. Chargesfor drug-exposedinfants at these hospitals ranged from $466 to $66,326. Becausemore than 60 per- cent of all patients received public medical assistanceat 7 of the 10 hos- pitals in our study, much of these chargeswere covered by federal assistanceprograms. Although the long-term physical effects of prenatal drug exposure are not well known, indications are that someof these infants will continue to need expensive medical care as they grow up. Becauseof the uncer- tainty of the long-term consequencesof prenatal drug exposure, the future costs of caring for these children are unknown. (Seeapp. II.) ’ ‘Ira J. Chasnoff, Harvey J. Landress, and Mark E. Barrett, “The Prevalence of Illicit-Drug or Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Discrepancies in Mandatory Reporting in Pinellas County, Florida.” The - New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 322, Apr. 26,1990, pp. 1202-06. 12Theother six hospitals did not have enough cases to enable us to analyze differences in hospital charges and other characteristics of drug-exposed infants and those not exposed to drugs. Page 0 GAO/HRIM@l38 m-Expoeed Infhta 0233209 Drug-exposedinfants often present immediate and long-term demands Impact on Social on the social welfare system. Officials atseveral of the hospitals in our Welfare and review stated that they are experiencing a growing number of “boarder Educational Systems babies”-infants who stay in a hospital for nonmedical reasonsoften related to drug-abusing families. Boarder babies are reported to the Could Be Profound social welfare system for foster care placement. We also found that a substantial proportion of drug-exposedinfants did not go home from the hospital with their parents. An estimated 1,200 of the 4,000 drug-exposedinfants born in 1989 at the 10 hospitals in our review were placed in foster care. The cost of 1 year of foster care for these 1,200 infants is about $7.2 million. Not all drug-exposedinfants enter the social servicessystem at birth; some are discharged from the hospital to drug-abusing parents. These infants may later enter the social services system becauseof the chaotic and often dangerousenvironment associatedwith parental drug abuse-an increasing source of child abuse and neglect. For example, cocaineuse was found to be significantly associatedwith child neglect in a recent study of child-abuse investigations in Boston. Hospital officials told us that they are seeingmore young children from drug-abusing fam- ilies admitted to hospitals becausethey suffered physical neglect or mal- treatment at the hands of someoneon drugs. City and state officials we contacted told us that prenatal drug exposure and drug-abusing families are placing increasing demands on their social welfare systems. Although they perceived the problem to be growing, most could not provide statistics on the numbers of drug-related foster care placements. Officials in New York, however, estimate that 67 per- cent of foster care children comefrom families that allegedly are abusing drugs. Becausethe estimated demand for foster care nationwide has increased 29 percent from 1986 to 1989, there is concern as to whether the system can adequately respond to the needsof drug-abusing families. Specifi- cally, problems have been identified regarding the availability of foster parents who are willing to accept children who have been exposedto drugs, the quality of foster care homes, and the lack of supportive health and social servicesto families who provide foster care to these children. Although definitive information is not yet available, many drug-exposed infants may have long-term learning and developmental deficiencies Page 7 GAO/HRLMM-138 Drug-Exposed Infknt.a B-238209 1 that could result in underachievement and excessiveschool dropout rates leading to adult illiteracy and unemployment. As increasing num- bers of drug-exposedinfants reach school age,the long-term detrimental effects of drug exposure will becomemore evident. The cost of mini- mizing the long-term effects of drug exposure will vary with the severity of disabilities, For example, at a pilot preschool program for mildly impaired prenatally drug-exposedchildren in Los Angeles, the per capita cost is estimated to be $17,000 per year. The Florida Depart- ment of Health and Rehabilitative Servicesestimates that for those drug-exposedchildren who show significant physiologic or neurologic impairment total service costs to age 18 could be as high as $760,000. (Seeapp. III.) To prevent the problem of drug-exposedinfants, women of childbearing Lack of Drug age must abstain from using drugs. To reduce the impact of drug- Treatment and exposure, pregnant women who use drugs should be encouragedto stop Prenatal Care Is and be given neededtreatment. Contributing to the Number of Drug- Exposed Infants Drug Treatment Services Recent studies show that if women are able to stop drug use during Do Not Meet the Need pregnancy, there will be significant positive effects in the health of the infant. The risks of low birth weight and prematurity, which often require expensive neonatal intensive care, are minimized by drug treat- ment before the third trimester. Many programs that provide servicesto women, including pregnant women, have long waiting lists. Treatment experts believe that unless women who have decided to seek treatment are admitted to a treatment facility the same day, they may not return. However, women are rarely admitted the day they seek treatment. Onetreatment center in Boston received 460 calls for detoxification servicesduring a l-month period. The callers were told that it usually took 1 to 2 weeks to be admitted. They were also instructed to call back every day to determine if a slot had becomeavailable. Of the 460 callers that month, about one-half never called back and about 160 were eventually admitted to treatment. Page 8 GAO/HRD-20-138 Drug-Exposed Infanta B-239209 Nationwide, drug treatment services are insufficient. A 1990 survey conducted by the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. (NASADAD), estimates that 280,000 pregnant women nationwide were in need of drug treatment, yet less than 11 percent of them received caresI Hospital and social welfare officials in each of the five cities in our review also told us that drug treatment serviceswere insufficient or inadequate to meet the demand for servicesof drug- addicted pregnant women. In addition to insufficient treatment, someprograms deny servicesto pregnant women. A survey of 78 drug treatment programs in New York City found that 54 percent of them denied treatment to pregnant women. One of the primary reasonstreatment centers are reluctant to treat pregnant women relates to issuesof legal liability. Drug treatment providers fear that certain treatments using medications and the lack of prenatal care or obstetrical services at the clinics may have adverse con- sequenceson the fetus and thereby exposethe providers to legal problems. Many other barriers to treatment exist. For example, pregnant addicts we interviewed told us that becausethey had other children, the lack of child care services made it difficult for them to seek treatment. Most treatment programs do not provide child care services. Another barrier to treatment for women is the fear of criminal prosecu- tion. Drug treatment and prenatal care providers told us that the increasing fear of incarceration and losing children to foster care is dis- couraging pregnant women.from seeking care. Women are reluctant to seek treatment if there is a possibility of punishment. They also fear that if their children are placed in foster care, they will never get the children back. Prenatal Care Is Needed Prenatal care can help prevent or at least ameliorate many of the problems and costs associatedwith the births of drug-exposedinfants, Through the three basic componentsof prenatal care: (1) early and con- tinued risk assessment,(2) health promotion, and (3) medical and psychosocial interventions and follow-up, the chancesof an unhealthy infant are greatly reduced. Hospital officials told us that in addition to not seeking prenatal care, somedrug-using women are now delivering “‘The report did not reveal the extent to which these women sought treatment. Page 9 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants B-238200 their infants at home in order to prevent being reported to child welfare authorities. Many health professionals believe comprehensiveresidential drug treat- ment that includes prenatal care servicesis the best approach to helping many women stop using drugs during pregnancy and providing the developing infant with the best chanceof being born healthy. However, such programs are scarce. Massachusettsofficials told us that the lack of residential treatment slots was a major problem. Only 16 residential treatment slots are avail- able to pregnant addicts statewide. California officials made similar comments. These officials also reported that when they are unable to place drug-addicted pregnant women in residential treatment, they try to place these women in battered women shelters or even in nursing homes.(Seeapp. IV.) Despite growing indications of a serious national problem, hospital pro- Conclusions ceduresdo not adequately identify drug use during pregnancy. Conse- quently, there are no reliable data on the number of drug-exposed infants born each year. However, based on our review at hospitals in five cities, we believe the number of drug-exposedinfants born nation- wide each year could be very high. A drug-exposedinfant has short- and long-term health, social, and cost implications for society, These infants are more likely to be born prema- ture, have a lower birth weight, and have longer hospital stays requiring more expensive care. Someof them will need a lifetime of medical care; others will have considerable developmental problems, which may impair their schooling and employment. Preventing drug use among women of childbearing age would reduce the number of infants born drug exposed.Providing drug treatment and prenatal care could significantly improve the health of infants born to women who use drugs and could reduce the risk of long-term problems. Yet in the five cities in our review, drug treatment was largely unavail- able and many women giving birth to drug-exposedinfants are not receiving adequate prenatal care. Page 10 GAO/HRIWO-138 Drug-Exposed Infanti . %22!32oB Becausethe increasing number of drug-exposedinfants has becomea Matters for serious health and social problem, we believe an urgent national Consideration by the responseis necessary.Specifically, outreach services should be provided Congress so that pregnant women in need of prenatal care and drug treatment can be identified. For these women, comprehensivedrug treatment, and pre- natal care must be made available and accessible. With additional federal funding, the large gap between the number of women who could benefit from drug treatment and the number of resi- dential and outpatient slots currently available could be reduced. If the Congressshould decide to expand the current federal resource commit- ment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, there are several options that could be followed. These include: l Increasing the alcohol and drug abuseand mental health services (ADMS) block grant to the states in order to provide more federal support for drug treatment. l Increasing the ADMS Women’s Set-Aside from 10 percent to a higher per- centageto assure that expanded treatment services under the block grant are targeted specifically to substance-abusingpregnant women. . Creating a new categorical grant to provide comprehensiveprenatal care and drug treatment servicesto substance-abusingpregnant women. l Increasing funding of MCH specifically for substance-abusetreatment for pregnant women. . Requiring states to include substance-abusetreatment as part of the package of services available to pregnant women under Medicaid. Although these options would require more funds in the short term, we believe that this commitment could save money in the long term as well as improve the lives of a future generation of children. Copies of this report will be sent to the appropriate congressionalcom- mittees and subcommittees;the Secretary of Health and Human Ser- vices; and the Director, Office of Management and Budget, and we will make copies available to other interested parties upon request. Page 11 GAO/HRD!W128 Drug-Exposed Infants 1’ , II B-228209 If you have any questions about this report, pleasecall me on (202) 27% 6461. Other major contributors to the report are listed in appendix VII. Sincerely yours, Janet L. Shikles Director for Health Financing and Policy Issues Page 12 GAO/HRD9@123 m-Expoeed Infants Y Page 13 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants II Contents Letter Appendix I 18 The Number of Drug- The Number of Drug-ExposedInfants Could Be High Hospitals Lack Systematic Proceduresto Identify Drug- 18 19 Exposed Infants May Exposed Infants Be Seriously Underestimated Appendix II 24 Drug-Exposed Infants Drug-ExposedInfants Are More Vulnerable at Birth Hospital ChargesAre Higher for Drug-ExposedInfants 24 27 Are Likely to Have Costly Health Problems Appendix III 30 Prenatal Drug Abuse Many Drug-ExposedInfants Enter Foster Care Drug-ExposedInfants Are Vulnerable to Developmental 30 33 Has Increased Demand Problems That May Affect Learning for Social Services Appendix IV 36 Lack of Drug Lack of Treatment for Drug-Addicted Pregnant Women 36 Prenatal Care Improves Birth Outcomes 38 Treatment and Prenatal Care Contributing to the Number of Drug- Exposed Infants Page 14 GAO/HRINO-138 Drug-Exposed Infants - Appendix V Percentage Distribution of Infants Exposed to Drugs, Including Cocaine Appendix VI 41 Objectives, Scope, and Hospital Selection Criteria 41 Methodology Appendix VII Major Contributors to This Report Bibliography Tables Table 1.1:Drug-ExposedInfants Born at 10 Hospitals, 19 1989 Table 1.2:Estimated Number of Infants With Indicators of 22 Possible Drug Exposure Not Tested in Nine Hospitals, 1989 Table 1.3:Percentageof Infants With Two or More 23 Indicators of PossibleDrug Exposure Who Were or Were Not Tested and the Percentageof Drug-Exposed Infants at Nine Hospitals Table II. 1: Estimated Hospital Chargesfor Drug-Exposed 28 Infants at Three Hospitals in 1989 Table VI. 1: Comparison of Births at Hospitals in GAO 41 Study With Total Births in the RespectiveCities, 1988 Table VI.2: Profile of Patients at SelectedHospitals 42 Page 16 GAO/HRD-go-198 --Exposed Infanta , Contents Figures Figure II. 1: Mothers of Drug-ExposedInfants Are More 26 Likely to Obtain Inadequate Prenatal Care Figure 11.2:Drug-ExposedInfants More Often Have a Low 26 Birth Weight as Compared With NonexposedInfants Figure 11.3:Drug-ExposedInfants Are More Likely to Be 27 Born Prematurely Than NonexposedInfants Figure 11.4:Drug-ExposedInfants Incur Higher Hospital 28 ChargesThan NonexposedInfants Figure III. 1: Drug-ExposedInfants Are More Likely to Be 31 Admitted to Foster Care Than NonexposedInfants Abbreviations ADAMHA Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration ADMS alcohol and drug abuse and mental health services GAO General Accounting Office HHS Department of Health and Human Services MCH Maternal and Child Health ServicesBlock Grant program NASADAD National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. NIDA National Institute on Drug Abuse Page 16 GAO/HRD-96-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Page 17 GAO/HRD-!40-138 Drug-Exposed Infants , PPe ?l%%m&er of Drug-Exposed Infmts May Be A Seriously Undereated The identification of infants who have been prenatally exposedto drugs is key to understanding the magnitude of the problem and providing effective medical and social interventions for these infants. However, there is no consensuson the number of drug-exposedinfants born in the United States each year. A comprehensivenationwide study to specifi- cally determine the incidence of drug-exposedbirths has not been done. Additionally, hospitals’ procedures allow many drug-exposedinfants to go undetected. Basedon data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ National The Number of Drug- Hospital Discharge Survey, which includes a representative sample of Exposed Infants Could all births, an estimated 9,202 drug-exposedinfants were born in 1986 in E3eHigh the United States.’ By 1988, the latest year that data were available, the number had grown to 13,765 infants.2 However, this is likely to be a substantial under-countof the problem. At present, physicians and hos- pitals do not routinely screen and test all women and their infants for drugs. Recentstudies have found that when screening and testing are uniformly applied, a much higher number of drug-exposedinfants is identified. One study found that hospitals that assessevery pregnant woman or newborn infant through a medical history and urine toxicology had an incidence rate that was three to five times greater than hospitals that relied on less rigorous methods of detection.3The averageincidence of drug-exposedinfants born at hospitals with rigorous detection proce- dures was closeto 16 percent of all births as compared with 3 percent of births at hospitals with no substance-abuseassessment. Likewise, our work indicates that the National Hospital Discharge Survey underreports the incidence of drug-exposedbirths. Basedon our review of the medical records for both the women and their infants at 10 hospitals, an estimated 3,904 drug-exposedinfants were born at these hospitals in 1989. (Seetable 1.1.)”Estimates of the number of these infants ranged from a low of 13 per 1,000 births at one hospital to a ‘The estimate ranged from 7,178 to 11,226 at a g&percent confidence interval. “The estimate ranged from 8,269 to 19,271 at a QEqercent confidence interval. 31raJ. Chasnoff, “Drug Use and Women: Establishing a Standard of Care,” Prenatal Use of Licit and Illicit Drugs, ed. Donald E. Hutchings. New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1989. 4Appendii V provides more detailed information on the degree of drug-exposed infants identified at the 10 hospitals. Page 18 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Expaeed Infanta The Number of W-Expoeed Infanta May Be Seriously Underestlmsted high of 181 births per 1,000 at another. Maternal cocaineuse was esti- mated to range from less than 1 percent to 12 percent among the hospitals. Table 1.1: Drug-Exposed Infant8 Born at 10 Horpltalr, 1999 Estimated no. of Total drug-exposed Infant6 Eatlmated no. of DW 1.000 births of bit; drua-exoosed infants Boston 1 72 3,294 237 2 89 1 ,438a 128 Chicaao 1 181 3,604 652 2 47 4,250a 200 Los Anaeles 1 148 8,020 1,187 2 54 8,175 441 New York 1 127 3,147 400 2 118 3,726 440 San Antonio 1 31 5.688 176 2 13 3,312 43 Total 44,655 3,904 aThe actual number of births is not available; therefore, the total number of births for the year is esti- mated. We also found that the wide range in the number of drug-exposed Hospitals Lack infants we identified at the different hospitals in our review may be Systematic Procedures associatedwith the effort taken by hospitals to identify drug-exposed to Identify Drug- infants. For example, one of the 10 hospitals did not have a protocol for assessingdrug use during pregnancy. This hospital had the lowest inci- Exposed Infants dence of drug-exposedinfants. Protocols at the remaining 9 hospitals did not require systematic screeningand testing of every mother and infant for potential substanceuse or exposure. Instead, the protocols primarily required testing if the mother reported her drug use or if drug withdrawal signs becamemanifest in the infant. Hospital officials acknowledge that these screeningcriteria allow many drug-exposedinfants to remain unidentified in the hospital, For example, women often deny using drugs becausethey do not want to be Page 19 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infanta Appemdix I The Number of Drug%xpmed Infants May Be Seriously Underestimated reported to the authorities for fear of being incarcerated or having their children taken from them. In addition, many cocaine-exposedinfants display few overt drug with- drawal signs. Somewill show no signs of drug withdrawal, while for others withdrawal signs may be mild or will not appear until several days after hospital discharge. The visual signs of drug exposure vary from severesymptoms to milder symptoms of irritability and restless- ness,poor feeding, and crying. Sincethese milder symptoms are nonspe- cific, maternal drug use may not be suspectedunless urine testing is conducted. Even when hospitals do conduct urinalysis, drug use may go undetected if drug concentrations within the body are too low. Urinalysis can only detect drugs used within the past 24 to 72 hours. According to recent studies, hair analysis and meconium analysis, two testing methods for detecting drug use, have advantagesover urinalysis becausethey are more accurate or can detect drug use over a longer period of time after drug use has occurred..5,6,7 One of the studies, conducted at a large urban hospital in Detroit accounting for over 7,000 births annually, used meconium analysis to detect drug use during pregnancy.RPreliminary results revealed that 42 percent of infants were found to be drug- exposedin 1989.RHowever, the hospitals in our review that conducted testing for drug exposure relied exclusively on urinalysis. When an infant does not show signs of drug withdrawal or the mother does not self-report drug use, a physician may consider other factors as presumptive of drug exposure during pregnancy and recommendthat drug testing be conducted. Such factors or characteristics have been found to occur more often among drug-exposedinfants than infants not exposedto drugs and include (1) inadequate prenatal care (defined as four or fewer prenatal care visits for a pregnancy of 34 or more aMeconium is the first 2- to 3-days’ stool of a newborn infant. “Karen Graham and others, “Determination of Gestational Cocaine Exposure by Hair Analysis,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 262 (Dec. 16, 1989), pp. 3328-30. 7Enrique M. Ostrea, Jr., A Prospective Study of the Prevalence of Drug Abuse Among Pregnant Women, Its Impact on Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality and on the Infant Mortality Hate in Detroit. [July 14, lY8Y, prelimmary report.) ‘Ostrea, A Prospective Study of the Prevalence of Drug Abuse Among Pregnant Women. “The 42 percent of births identified as drug exposed using meconium testing compares with 8 percent identified based on the mother’s self-reporting drug use. Page 20 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix I The Number of Drug-Exposed Infants May Be Seriously Underestimated weeks),lO(2) low birth weight (defined as less than 6.6 pounds), and (3) low gestational age or prematurity (defined as less than 38 weeks).uJz (Seetable 1.2.) We were able to obtain data from 9 of the 10 hospitals in our review on the degreeto which infants had these characteristics. We identified an estimated 4,391 infants with two or more characteristics of possible drug exposure. The last column of table I.2 shows the number of infants with two or more drug-exposure indicators who were not tested for drug exposure at the 9 hospitals where we obtained data. We estimate that at these hospitals during 1989, there were 2,791 potentially drug-exposed infants who were not tested, based on our review of hospital medical records. ‘oInstitute of Medicine, Infant Death: An Analysis by Maternal Risk and Health Care. Contrasts in Health Status, ed. D.M. Kessner, Vol. 1 (Washington, DC.: National Academy of Sciences, 1973), pp. 68-69. “Gestational age refers to the period of time, normally 40 weeks, from conception to an infant’s birth. ‘“Maternal demographic characteristics and socioeconomic status effect birth outcomes. Infant mor- tality and low birth weight rates are higher for young, uneducated, unmarried, non-white women with limited financial resources. Page 21 GAO/HRD-90438 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix I The Number of Drug-Exposed Manta May Be Sedoualy Underestimated Table 1.2: Eatlmated Number of Infants With Indlcaton of Poralble Drug No. of Infants with Exporure Not Tested In Nine Hospitals, Leso than 5 Birth weight GestatIonal Two 1999 less than age less than or more Locatlon/hospltal prggi 5.5 Ibs 38 weeks risk factors Boston 1 69 563 682 478 b b b b 2 Chicago 1 342 299 620 267 2 72 136 574 123 Los Angeles 1 513 176 401 176 2 1.120 335 601 441 New York 1 126 283 469 242 2 414 197 514 209 San Antonio 1 842 574 910 580 2 116 335 643 275 Total 3,614 2,598 5,614 2,791 aWe included women with pregnancies of 33 or fewer weeks; however, they comprised a small portion of the sampled births ranging from 3 to 11 percent of the samples at the 9 hospitals. bData were not available for this hospital to make the analysis. We also found that somehospitals where we identified low percentages of drug-exposedinfants tended to have high percentagesof infants with two or more indicators of possible drug exposure who were not tested. (Seetable 1.3.)For example, one hospital tested no infants with these indicators of possible drug exposure; this hospital also had the fewest (1.3 percent) estimated drug-exposedinfants. Y Page 22 GAO/HRD!3O-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix I The Number of Drug-Exposed Infants May Be Seriously Underestimated Table 1.3: Percentage of Infant8 With Two or More IndlCatOr8 Of PO88ibk Drug Figures are percentages Exposure Who Were or Were Not Teated Infants Infants Drug-exposed and the Percentage of Drug-Exposed City/horpital tested not tested Infant8 Infant8 at Nine Horpltalo Boston 1 11 89 7.2 Chicago 1 31 69 18.1 2 61 39 4.7 Los Angeles 1 78 22 14.8 2 30 70 5.4 New York 1 40 60 12.7 2 46 54 11.8 San Antonio 1 9 91 3.1 2 0 100 1.3 In our interviews with hospital officials at 10 additional hospitals that predominantly serve privately insured patients in these five cities, we found that one-half of the hospitals did not have a protocol for identi- fying drug use during pregnancy. Somehospital officials estimated drug- exposedinfants represented less than 1 to 3 percent of births at their hospitals. Therefore, they did not consider prenatal drug exposure to be serious enough to warrant implementing a drug testing protocol. One recent study found, however, that illicit drug use is common among women regardless of race and socioeconomicstatus. This study anony- mously tested for drug use among women entering private obstetric care and women entering public health clinics for prenatal care and found that the overall incidence of drug use was similar among both groups of women (14.8 percent overall, 16.3 percent for women seenat public clinics, and 13.1 percent for those seenat private offices).13 131raJ. Chamoff, Harvey J. Landress, and Mark E. Barrett, “The Prevalence of Illicit Drug Use or Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Discrepancies in Mandatory Reporting in Pinellas County, Florida,” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 322 (Apr. 26, ISSO), pp. 1202-06. Page 23 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug4xposed Infants Appendix II Drug-Exposed Infants Are Likely to Have Costly Health Problems Infants prenatally exposedto drugs are more likely to need more med- ical servicesthan infants whose mothers did not use drugs during preg- nancy. It is more common for drug-exposedinfants to be born prematurely and have low birth weights. They are more likely to have medical complications and longer hospitalizations resulting in higher hospital charges.Median hospital chargesfor drug-exposedinfants were up to four times greater than for nonexposedinfants. Becausedrug-exposedinfants are born with significantly more medical Drug-Exposed Infants problems, they experience more expensive hospitalizations. The most Are More Vulnerable frequent effects of drug exposure on infants are low birth weight and at Birth prematurity. Comparing drug-exposedinfants with those with no indi- cation of drug exposure at 4 hospitals, we found differences in prenatal care received, birth weight, gestational age, intensity of care, and hos- pital length of stay.’ The proportion of infants born to drug-using women receiving inade- quate prenatal care ranged from 29 to 70 percent of births compared with 8 to 34 percent of births to women who did not use drugs and received inadequate prenatal care. (Seefig. 11.1.) ‘Of the 10 hospitals we reviewed, 4 had a lo-percent or higher incidence of infants born drug exposed. At these hospitals we had a sufficient number of cases with which to conduct more detailed analysis of the differences between hospital charges and other characteristics of drug-exposed infants and those not exposed to drugs. Pa’ge 24 GAO/llRB9O.13S Drug-Exposed hfanta Appendix II Drug#xpoaed Infanta Are Likely to Have Costly Health Problems Flgure 11.1:Mothers of Drug-Exposed Infant8 Are More Likely to Obtain Inadequate Prenatal Care Estlmatsd prrcrnt of Infants born to mothrn rscolvlng lnadsquats pnnatal oars (Comparison at 4 Hospitals) 70 55 60 55 50 25 20 15 10 5 0 1 2 3 4 Hospitals II Drug-exposed infants Infants not identified as drug exposed Low birth weight, defined as weighing less than 5.6 pounds, is a major determinant of infant mortality and places the survivors at increased risk of serious illness and lifelong handicaps. We found significantly higher percentagesof drug-exposedinfants weighing less than 6.5 pounds than those born to women not identified as using drugs during their pregnancy. In fact, the proportion of drug-exposedinfants of low birth weight was at least twice as great as infants not identified as drug exposed.The rate of low-birth-weight infants ranged from 25 to 31 per- cent among drug-using women and 4 to 11 percent for women not identi- fied as using drugs. (Seefig. 11.2.) Page 25 GAO/HRLMJ-138 Drug-Exposed Infants , Appendix II Drug-~ Infants Are Likely to Have Caetly Health Problema Flaure 11.2:Drua-Exporod Infanta More Often Have a Low ilrth Weight a8 Compared Wlth Nonexposed Infant8 as Emtlmatod porant of low bbth woighl infants (Comparison at 4 Hospitals) 1 2 3 HOSpltd* Drug-exposed infant8 Infants not identified aa drug exposed Infants are typically born 40 weeks after conception. Those born before 38 weeks are considered premature. Premature infants are frequently handicapped by physical limitations, which vary depending on the degreeof prematurity. These handicaps may lead to increased mortality and morbidity. Generally, we found that drug-exposedinfants were about twice as likely to be premature as infants not exposedto drugs. (Seefig. 11.3.) Page 26 GAO/IfRIMO-138 Drug-Expoeed Infanta . APpeA IJ Drug-JZxpawd Infanta Axe Ukely to Have Fatly Health Problems Flgure 11.3:Drug-Exporrd Infant8 Are More Likely to Be Born Prematurely Than Nonexpoaed Infant8 Edlmaiod porcrnt of Infanta born pnmatunly (Comparison at 4 Hospitals) SO 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 1 2 3 4 Hwpitals Drug-expossd infant8 Infants not ldenfified aa drug exposed Finally, at two of the four hospitals, a significantly greater percentage of drug-exposedinfants neededintensive care services during their hos- pital stay. Drug-exposedinfants were also more likely than those not identified as drug exposedto remain in the hospital for 6 or more days. The health problems of drug-exposedinfants and their longer and more Hospital Charges Are complicated hospitalizations are often reflected in higher hospital Higher for Drug- charges.We were able to compare hospital chargesbetween drug- Exposed Infants exposed infants and infants with no indication of drug exposure in their medical records at three hospitals2 As shown in figure 11.4,hospital charges for drug-exposedinfants were up to four times greater than those for infants with no indication of drug exposure. For example, at one hospital the median charge for drug-exposedinfants was $5,500, while the median charge incurred by nonexposedinfants was $1,400. “At 1 of the 4 hospitals, however, separate hospital charges for mothers and infants were not available. Page 27 GAO/HRD90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix Il Drug-Exposed Infants Are Likely to Have Costly Health Problems Higher Hospital Charges Than Nonexposed Infants Modian Hospkal Charge8 (Comparison at 3 Hospitals) 6000 5300 5000 43w 4000 3!Ioo 3000 2600 2000 1500 1000 600 0 1 2 Hospitals L-J Drug-exposed infants Infants not identified as drug exposed Over $14 million was spent on the care of drug-exposedinfants at 3 hos- pitals where we were able to obtain data. (Seetable 11.1.)Hospital charges for drug-exposedinfants at these hospitals ranged from $455 to $65,325. Becausemore than 50 percent of patients received public medical assis- tance in 7 of the hospitals in our study, a large part of these costs was covered by federal assistanceprograms. Table 11.1:Estlmated Hospital Charges for Drug-Exposed Infants at Three Estimated no. of Hoopltalr In 1999 drug-exposed Mean Estimated total Hospital Infants charge horpltal charges 1 1,187 $6,914= $8,206,918 2 --- 400 8,939 3,575,600 3-~~_ 440 6,520 2,868,800 Total 2,027 $14.651,318 aThe charges at this hospital are based on a flat per diem rate and, therefore, may be underestimated. Page 28 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infante Appendix II Drug-Exposed Infants Are Likely to Have Costly Health Problems Although the long-term physical effects of prenatal drug exposure are not well known, indications are that someof these infants will continue to need expensive medical care as they grow up, Becauseof the uncer- tainty of the long-term consequencesof prenatal drug exposure, future medical costs of caring for these children are unknown. k Page 29 GAO/HRD-99-138 Drug-Exposed Infants < f” I Appendix III Prenatal Drug Abuse Has Increased Demand for Social Services State, city, and hospital social servicesofficials unanimously reported to us that parental drug abusehas created additional demandson the social services system. These demandsinclude the need for foster place- ments for the infant upon discharge from the hospital. They also include investigations of drug-related neglect and abusethat in somecases result in the child’s removal from the home. Additionally, studies have shown that somedrug-exposedinfants will suffer long-term medical and psychological effects from drug exposure. These problems may lead to learning disabilities, causing higher school drop-out rates and eventual unemployment. We found that drug-exposedinfants were significantly more likely, com- Many Drug-Exposed pared with infants not identified as drug-exposed,to stay in the hospital Infants Enter Foster after their mother was discharged. While these longer stays were prima- Care rily attributed to medical reasons,somehospital officials stated they are experiencing a growing number of infants staying in the hospital for nor-medical reasons.Commonly called “boarder babies,” the parents or relatives of these infants are often not willing to accept the baby or, in other cases,social service workers have determined that the home envi- ronment is not acceptablefor the infant becauseof parental drug abuse. Officials from 6 of the 10 surveyed hospitals stated that their hospitals were experiencing increased demands for servicesfor boarder babies. In addition to providing servicesto boarder babies, social service agen- cies must also provide servicesto drug-exposedinfants referred by hos- pitals. In three cities that are required by state law to refer drug- exposed infants to child welfare authorities the number of infants referred during recent years has increased dramatically. In New York, referrals increasedby 268 percent over the 4-year period 1986 to 1989. For approximately the sameperiod, referrals in Los Angeles increased by 342 percent and in Chicago,by 1,736 percent,’ For infants who do not leave the hospital with their mother, additional costs are incurred in foster care services.At 3 of the 4 hospitals, 26 to 68 percent of drug-exposedinfants were in need of foster care. In con- trast, only 1 to 2 percent of infants born to a mother with no indication of drug use required foster placement. At the fourth hospital few infants were placed in foster care. (Seefig. III.1 .) ‘Texas officials told us that their state does not have a legal requirement that drug-exposed infants be;yez$yd in Massachusetts officials said that until 1990 cocaine-exposed infants did not have Page 30 GAO/HItLW@138 Dru&Expod Infanta Appendix III Prenatal Drng Abuse Han Incred Demand for Social services Figure 111.1:Drug-Exposed Infants Are More Llkdy to 60 Admitted to Footer 50 Eetimatod psrcant ot Infants admittad to tostar cm Care Than Nonexpo8ed Infant8 (Comparison at 4 Hospitals) 65 50 45 40 35 30 2s 20 15 10 1 2 HCSplt8lS Drug-exposed infants czl Infants not exposed to drugs Although we could compare drug-exposedinfants to infants not identi- fied as drug exposed at only 4 hospitals, we were able to estimate the number of drug-exposedinfants entering foster care at 9 hospitals. At these 9 hospitals, the cost of providing basic foster care for 1 year to 1,194 infants, would be over $7.2 million. Basic per capita foster care costs in the cities in our survey ranged from $3,600 to $6,000 annually; specialized foster care, which includes homesthat provide some medical monitoring or group residential facilities, may cost between $4,800 and $36,000. Number of Child Abuse Becausedrug-exposedinfants are often born with special problems, and Neglect Cases they may be more difficult to care for even under the best circum- stances.Someof these children are placed directly from the hospital into Increasing foster homes where the foster parents are often unaware of the chil- dren’s problems and are not trained to care for their specialized needs. Others return home to families that have trouble providing adequate Y care because,in many instances, drug abusecontinues to dominate family life. Page 31 GAO/IiRBBO-133 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix Ul Prenatal Drug Abuse Haa Increased Lkmmd for socm services A drug-exposed,low-birth-weight infant may be irritable, cry exces- sively, have difficulty bonding with the mother, and have problems feeding. Many drug-using mothers may be compromised in their ability to interact with their infant or to understand and respond to their infants’ basic needs.Many of these women also have health and emo- tional problems. The combination of the infant’s and the mother’s problems place the infant at high risk for child abuse and neglect. An indicator of a chaotic and dangerous home environment is the extent to which the social services system is called on to intervene to protect children from the drug-abusing lifestyles of their parents. Child welfare services officials from the five cities we visited stated that they are investigating more drug-related casesof child abuseand neglect each year. Many of these investigations result in foster care placement specif- ically for children under the age of 2. Child welfare officials in San Antonio told us that 40 percent of all referrals made to child protective services involve drug or alcohol abusein the family. In Los Angeles, up to 90 percent of referrals involved substance-abusingfamilies. The MassachusettsDepartment of Social Servicesreports a higher inci- denceof severeinjuries to young children and more families where the use of drugs and alcohol is being identified as a precipitating factor in family violence. In 1989, the department conducted a study to determine the association of drug and alcohol use with child abuse and neglect2 The study found that illicit drug or excessivealcohol use was a factor in 64 percent of caseinvestigations. Cocaineuse was found to be signifi- cantly associatedwith child neglect. Neglect was defined as a lack of supervision, food, clothing, medical care, and other necessities.In the most severecasesthere were reports of no food, milk, or diapers in the house; medical neglect to the extent of nontreatment of serious and acute injuries and illnesses;extremely dirty living quarters; and an absenceof care and supervision for children under the age of 5.3 Hospital officials also told us that they are seeingan increasing number of young children from drug-abusing families admitted to the hospital becausethey suffered neglect or maltreatment at the hands of someone on drugs. Officials described various incidents of children dying due to “Julia Herskowitz and others, “Substance Abuse and Family Violence, Part I, Identification of Drug and Alcohol Usage During Child Abuse Investigations in Boston.” (Massachusetts Department of Social Services, June, 1989). “Herskowitz, pp. 4-8. Page 32 GAO/HRD-M-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix III Prenatal Drug Abuse Has Increased Demand for Social !3ervices physical abuseor a drug overdosefrom inhalation or ingestion of crack cocaine. Foster Care Placements A high proportion of child protective service investigations of abuseor Increasing neglect involving drug abuseresults in foster care placement. In fact, the estimated nationwide demand for foster care has increased by 29 per- cent from 1986 to 1989, In 1989,360,OOOchildren were estimated to be in foster care acrossthe country. Much of this increase is attributed to substanceabusein families. According to social service officials in the five cities we visited, family drug-abuseproblems are a contributing factor in the placement of chil- dren in foster care. In New York, a review of a statewide random sample of foster care children found that 67 percent of these children came from families allegedly abusing drugs. Foster care placements have increased substantially for children under the age of 1 and 2 in the states we visited. Social service officials attri- bute this increase to drug-abusing families. In Massachusetts,the number of children under age 2 admitted to foster care increased by 73 percent over the past 2 years. In New York City, children under age 2 accounted for 36 percent of foster care admissions in 1989. In Illinois, infants younger than 1 year old in foster care increased 284 percent from 1985 to 1989. Becausethe demand for foster care has increased nationwide, concerns have been raised about the social services system’s ability to respond to the needsof drug-abusing families. Specifically, problems have been identified regarding the availability of foster parents who are willing to accept children who have been exposedto drugs, the quality of foster care homes, and the lack of supportive health and social services for families who provide foster care to these children. Definitive information about the future of drug-exposedinfants doesnot Drug-Exposed Infants exist. The oldest of drug-exposedinfants in strict clinical trials designed Are Vulnerable to to examine the long-term physical effects of prenatal drug exposure, Developmental such as developmental deficiencies, are under the age of 3. In addition, long-term studies of drug-exposedchildren have not adequately con- Problems That May trolled for the amount of drug use, the intensity or frequency of use, or Affect Learning the type of drug used. Nor have studies indicated when drugs were used during the pregnancy. Page 33 GAO/HRD-90-139 Drug-Exposed Infants AppendJx III PrenatalDrugAbu6eHuIncressedDemand for &xial Seruices Results from studies to date indicate that the symptoms will vary among drug-exposedchildren. Somechildren show few symptoms after the drugs leave their system and others are expected to show neurological symptoms throughout their lives. Consequently, the needsof these infants will vary-from greater assistanceand intervention for some,to lesser assistancefor others.4 Recent studies and surveys of neonatal programs suggestthat some infants will suffer from central nervous system effects, including neurobehavioral deficiencies.6Researchershave reported that some infants identified through urine screensas positive for cocaine had suf- fered hemorrhages in the areas of the brain responsible for intellectual capacities.0f7 Observations of toddlers born to drug-using mothers imply future edu- cational problems based on these children’s difficulties with concentra- tion and learning. Researchat the University of California at San Diego showed that . 26 percent of drug-exposedchildren had developmental delays, and l 40 percent experienced neurologic abnormalities that might affect their ability to socialize and function within a school environment. The study also found that as these children grew older their abilities did not develop normally in the dimensions of language, adaptive behavior, and fine motor and cognitive skills.8 A school environment that is poorly prepared to respond to the develop- mental disabilities of these children may allow them to go unresolved. As an increasing number of drug-exposedchildren reach school age,this problem should becomemore evident. Onetest of this may occur next 4Rkhard P. Barth, “Educational Implications of Prenatally Drug Exposed Children,” Social Work in Education, in press. sHallurn Hurt, “Medical Controversies in Evaluation and Management of Cocaine-Exposed Infants” (1989), pp. 3-4. %borah A. Frank, Briefing for the Comptroller General of the United States, Boston City Hospital, February 24,lQQO. ‘Suzanne D. Dixon, “Effects of Transplacental Exposure to Cocaine and Methamphetamine on the Neonate” The Western Journal of Medicine (Apr. 1989) pp. 436-42. %terview with Suzanne D. Dixon, Director of Well Baby Clinic, University Medical Center, Unlver- sky of California at San Diego, February 14, 1990. Page 34 GAO/HRJMO-138 Dru@JSxpomd Infanta Pmnatal Dnq Abum liao Increased Demand for SodaI servleeo year when a large number of children born to the early wave of crack cocaineusers will reach kindergarten age. Oneresearcher has estimated that 42 to 62 percent of children exposed to drugs and alcohol will require special educational services.gThe degreeof servicesneededand their cost will vary depending on the severity of impairment. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District began a pilot program in 1987 for mildly impaired preschool children prenatally exposedto drugs. The cost of providing the enriched school environment provided in the pilot program is approximately $17,000 a year per child. At least one comprehensiveestimate, devel- oped by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, indicates that total service costs for each drug-exposedchild that shows significant physiologic or neurologic impairment, to the age of 18 years, will be $760,000. ‘Judy Howard, “Developmental Patterns for Infants Prenatally Exposed to Drugs”, Fact sheet presented to the California Legislative Ways and Means Committee, Perinatal Substance Abuse Edu- cational Forum, February 23,lQSQ. Page 35 GAO/IlRDQO-138 DnqExposed Infants . Annendix IV Lack of Drug Treatment and Prenatal Care Contributing to the Number of Drug- Exposed Infants Many women are unaware of the effects of drugs on the health of their infant. Other women are aware of the consequencesof drug use and would like to stop their addictive behavior, However, their efforts to get help may be unsuccessfuldue to insufficient drug treatment capacity. In addition, there are many barriers blocking accessto basic health ser- vices and drug treatment for drug-abusing pregnant women. Onemajor barrier is the fear women have that if they seektreatment they may be incarcerated or their children will be taken from them. The best way to prevent the problem of drug-exposedinfants is to pre- Lack of Treatment for vent drug use among women of childbearing age.Pregnant woman who Drug-Addicted use drugs should be encouragedto stop in order to reduce the potential Pregnant Women problems associatedwith prenatal drug exposure. According to one researcher, if women stop using cocainebefore the third trimester the risks of low birth weight and prematurity, which often require expen- sive neonatal intensive care, are greatly reduced.’ Nationwide, however, drug treatment services are insufficient. A 1990 survey by the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc. (NASADAD), found that an estimated 280,000 pregnant women nationwide were in need of drug treatment, yet less than 11 per- cent of them received care.2Hospital and social welfare officials in each of the five cities in our study also told us that drug treatment services were insufficient or inadequate to meet the demand for services for drug-addicted pregnant women. In addition to insufficient treatment, sometreatment programs deny ser- vices to drug-addicted pregnant women. A survey of 78 drug treatment programs in New York City found that 54 percent of them denied treat- ment to women who were pregnant. One of the primary reasonsthat programs are reluctant to treat pregnant women relates to issuesof legal liability. Drug treatment providers fear that certain treatment medica- tions and the lack of prenatal care or obstetrical services at the clinics may have adverse consequenceson the fetus and thereby exposethe providers to legal problems. Many programs that provide servicesfor women, including pregnant women, have long waiting lists. Treatment experts believe that unless ‘Deborah A. Frank, Briefing for the Comptroller General of the United States, BostonCity Hospital, February 24, 1990. Z’I’hc report did not reveal the extent to which these women sought treatment. Page 36 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infanta Appendix IV Lack of Drug Treatment and Prenatal Care Contributing to the Number of Drug- Exposed Infants women who have decided to seek treatment are admitted to a treatment facility the sameday, they may not return. However, women are rarely admitted on the day that they seek treatment. One treatment center in Boston received 460 calls for detoxification servicesduring a l-month period. The callers were told that no slots were available and that it usu- ally took 1 to 2 weeks to be admitted. They were also instructed to call back every day to determine if a slot had becomeavailable. Of the 450 callers that month, about one-half never called back and about 150 were eventually admitted to treatment. Many other barriers to treatment exist. Historically, treatment programs were designedto treat the addiction problems of men. Thus, many pro- grams are not tailored to meet the needsof pregnant women. For example, pregnant addicts we interviewed told us that becausethey had other children the lack of child care services made it difficult for them to seek treatment. Pregnant addicts may have additional needs,such as prenatal care and parenting, educational, and nutritional guidance, that are not provided in most treatment programs. Another barrier to treatment for women is their fear of criminal prose- cution. Drug treatment and prenatal care providers told us that the increasing fear of incarceration and loss of children to foster care is dis- couraging pregnant women from seeking care. Women are reluctant to seek treatment if there is a possibility of punishment. They also fear that if their children are placed in foster care, they will never get the children back. Many health professionals believe that comprehensiveresidential drug treatment, including prenatal care, is the best approach to helping many women abstain from using drugs during pregnancy and assuring that the developing fetus has the best chanceof being born healthy. Residen- tial treatment allows for several needsto be addressedat the sametime, thus reducing problems of fragmentation and inaccessibility of services. For example, the interconnected problems of homelessness,substance abuse,maternal and child health, and parenting are addressedin the few residential programs that exist. In addition, these programs limit accessto drugs and remove women from the environments in which they becamedependent. However, residential treatment programs for women are scarce.In Mas- sachusetts,residents have accessto only 15 residential treatment slots for pregnant women in the entire state. Social service officials at one Page 37 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix Iv Lack of Drug Treatment and Prenatal Care Contributing to the Number of Drug- ExPol3edInfante California hospital expressedtheir frustration with the lack of residen- tial drug treatment programs and other programs that could provide a stable environment to a pregnant addict. When they are unable to place drug-addicted pregnant women in residential treatment they try alterna- tives, including battered women shelters or even nursing homes. When both drug treatment and prenatal care services are provided for Prenatal Care drug-addicted pregnant women, the results are dramatic. The three Improves Birth basic components of prenatal care are: (1) early and continued risk Outcomes assessment,(2) health promotion, and (3) medical and psychosocial interventions and follow-up. One intervention program reported a sig- nificant drop in low-birth-weight babies born to drug-abusing mothers who had been provided with drug treatment and prenatal carea The incidence of low birth weight among infants born to drug-abusing mothers receiving such care dropped from 60 to 18 percent. Early and comprehensiveprenatal care is associatedwith lower rates of infants born with low birth weight. Our work and that of others showed that the incidence of low birth weight among drug-exposedinfants is high. Low birth weight is the most significant factor in determining infant death and disability as well as higher health costs.Prenatal care increasesthe chancesthat healthier infants will be born. Prenatal care is a cost-effective program. The Office of Technology Assessmentestimates that for every low-birth-weight birth averted by earlier or more frequent prenatal care, the U.S. health care system saves between $14,000 and $30,000 in short- and long-term health care costs associatedwith low birth weight. These savings are great compared with the average cost for professional services associatedwith prenatal care that can run as low as $600. According to the National Commissionto Prevent Infant Mortality, the barriers to accessingprenatal care are formidable, including financial, policy, system, provider, and patient barriers. In addition, others report that drug-addicted pregnant women refrain from seeking prenatal care becausethey fear that punitive actions will be taken if they are found to have used or abuseddrugs during pregnancy. Several hospital and 3Loretta P. Finnegan, M.D., Executive Diictor of Family Center, Professor of Pediatrics and Prw fessor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Family, Drugs, and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, United States Senate, February 6,lQQQ. Page 38 GAO/IiRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infanta . Appen& lv Lack of Drug Treatment and Prenatal Care contributing to the Number of Drug- Exposed lnfallta public health officials believe that punitive actions, such as incarcera- tion of drug-abusing pregnant mothers, have a negative impact on the lives of these women and their children. Hospital officials told us that in addition to not seeking prenatal care, somewomen are now delivering their infants at home in order to pre- vent the state from discovering their drug use. An example was given of one mother who delivered her baby at home and subsequently called the hospital for medical advice becausethe infant had becomevery sick. The mother was finally persuaded to bring the infant into the hospital. The consequentcare of this baby was very costly. Page 39 GAO/IIRD-fM)-138 Drug&qmed Infanta Appendix V PercentageDistribution of Infmts Exposed i ‘I Drugs, Including Cocaine Fiaures are Dercentaaes Cocaine- Drug-exposed Sampling, exposed Sampling HosDltal infants error infants error 1 1.3 1.0 0.3 0.4 ---..-~ 1.6 0.8 0.8 3 4.7 2.0 2.7 1.5 4 5.4 2.3 3.9 1.9 5 7.2 2.4 4.5 1.9 6a 8.9 . . . _---.- 7 11.8 2.9 11.0 2.8 a 12.7 2.9 8.5 2.4 9 3.4 10 18.1 4.2 8.6 2.9 aFrom this hospital we identified drug-exposed infants from the universe of births and, therefore, there is no sampling error. We were unable to distinguish the type of drugs used. “Sampling errors are at the 95percent confidence level Page 40 GAO/HRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix VI Objectives, Scope,and Methodology To develop a national estimate of drug-exposedinfants we obtained data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey conducted by HHS'S National Center for Health Statistics for the years 1080 to 1088. The National Hospital DischargeSurvey is basedon an annual survey of a representative sample of US hospitals. The survey collects information on the diagnosesassociatedwith hospitalization of adults and newborns in all nonfederal short-stay hospitals. Newborn discharge data for 1986 and 1988 were used to calculate national estimates. Data before 1986 were considerednonreportable due to a small number of sample casesof newborns with a drug-related discharge diagnosis. To determine the extent of drug-exposedinfants we reviewed medical records at 2 hospitals in each of five cities-Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and San Antonio. Mostly located in the inner city, 8 of these hospitals serve a high proportion of low-income patients likely to need federal assistanceand supportive services.The remaining 2 hos- pitals did not serve a high proportion of low-income patients, but received referrals from other hospitals in their respective cities of potentially complicated births, including drug-using pregnant women. Our review of medical records at the 10 hospitals (2 hospitals in each of these cities) covered a representative sample of 44,655 births in 1989. Our hospital selectionswere based on a high incidence of births per year Hospital Selection and the availability of a neonatal intensive care unit in addition to loca- Criteria tion and numbers of Medicaid patients. Table VI. 1 comparesthe number of births at the hospitals we selectedwith other hospitals in the five cities, and table VI.2 provides patient profile information for the selected hospitals. Table VI.1: Comparison of Birth8 at Hospltalr In GAO Study With Total Births All hospitals In the Respective Cltles, 1988 No. of Hospitals in GAO study hospitals with No. of No. of Percent of all city bassinets births births births in city Boston 5 19,500 4,969 25.5 Chicago 30 49,168 7,200 15.7 Los Angeles 27 81,379 15,231 19.9 New York 41 119,320 6,432 5.4 San Antonio 10 22.061 9.331 42.3 Page 41 GAO/~W-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Appendix VI Objectives, Scope,and Methodology Table V1.2: Protlle of Patlents at Selected HO8pltal8 Race Ineurance etatue Clty/Ho8pltal Black Hl8panlC White Medicaid Private Boston 1 20.9 5.5 67.3 34.0 59.9 2 64.6 18.7 12.1 51.4 13.0 Chicago 1 57.0 34.1 7.8 75.0 15.9 2 18.7 4.7 70.7 15.8 83.3 Los Angeles 1 19.8 79.1 0.5 74.9 1.8 2 4.3 83.2 9.0 88.6 1.3 New York 1 31.8 56.7 8.4 63.9 29.3 2 30.8 59.9 5.0 70.8 12.9 San Antonio 1 5.5 80.2 13.6 46.1 8.7 2 7.5 84.5 7.7 64.2 32.0 At these hospitals we conducted a detailed review of a random sample of medical records of mothers and their infants who were born between January 1 and June 30,1989, to estimate the number of drug-exposed infants.’ We considered an infant to be drug-exposedif any of the fol- lowing conditions were documented in the medical record of the infant or mother: (1) mother self-reported drug use during pregnancy, (2) urine toxicology results for mother or infant were positive for drug use, (3) infant diagnosed as having drug withdrawal symptoms, or (4) mother was diagnosedas drug dependent. We also interviewed hospital per- sonnel to obtain their procedures for identifying drug-exposedinfants. To assessthe medical and social impact of these births, we interviewed hospital, state, and local social servicesrepresentatives regarding the impact of drug-exposedinfants on the medical and social services sys- tems. In our discussionswith these officials we also determined the extent to which drug-addicted pregnant women are receiving drug treatment. ‘At each of 9 hospitals, we randomly selected 400 mothers’ medical records and the corresponding medical records for their infants. At the 9 hospitals the percentage of medical records unavailable for review ranged from less than 1 to 7 percent. At the tenth hospital, we did not review medical records but received a data tape with information on all births occurring during the first 6 months of 1989. Page 42 GAO/lflUWS128 Drug-Exposed Infantn Appendix VI Objectivea, Scope, and Methodology We also interviewed officials at 10 additional hospitals in these cities to determine the extent of drug-exposedinfants at these hospitals. These hospitals serve predominantly private-pay clientele. We did not review medical records to determine the extent of drug-exposedinfants at these hospitals. To gain further insight as to the consequencesof maternal drug use, we interviewed leading drug treatment experts, neonatologists, researchers, social welfare officials, and drug-addicted pregnant women. We also reviewed research conducted to determine the incidence of drug-exposed infants and the effects of drugs on the health of mothers and infants. Page 43 GAO/HRD-30.138 Drug-Exposed Infanta t Ppe r, kGF Contributors to This Report Mark V. Nadel, Associate Director, National and Public Health Issues Human Resources (202) 276-6196 Division, RoseMarie Martinez, Assignment Manager Washington, DC. Roy B. Hogberg, Evaluator-in-Charge FrancesA. Kanach, Senior Evaluator SusanL. Sullivan, Social ScienceAnalyst Robert D. Dee,Regional Assignment Manager Boston Regiona1 Office Lionel A. Ferguson, Evaluator Karyn L. Bell, Site Senior Chicago Regional Office Dallas Regional 00 Martin B. Fortner, Jr., Site Senior - Denise R. Dias, Site Senior Los Angeles Regional Office Patrice J. Hogan, Regional Assignment Manager New York Regional Office - w Page 44 GAO/IilUMO-138 Drug-Expoeea Infanta Bibliography Barth, Richard P., Ph.D., “Educational Implications of Prenatally Drug Exposed Children,” Social Work in Education, in press. Bauchner, Howard, M.D., and others, “Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syn- drome Among Infants with In Utero Exposure to Cocaine.” The Journal of Pediatrics (Nov. 19SS),pp 831-34. Besharov, Douglas J., “The Children of Crack: Will We Protect Them?” Public Welfare (Fall 1989), pp. 770-78. Beyer, Marty, Ph.D., “Boarder Babies in District of Columbia Hospitals.” Mayor’s Advisory Board on Maternal and Child Health (Sept. 6, 1989). Chasnoff, Ira J., “Drug Use and Women: Establishing a Standard of Care,” Prenatal Use of Licit and Illicit Drugs, ed. Donald E. Hutchings. New York: New York Academy of Sciences,1989. -“Drug Use in Pregnancy: Parameters of Risk.” The Pediatric Clinics of North America (Dec. 1988) pp. 1403-12. Chasnoff, Ira J., Harvey J. Landress, and Mark E. Barrett, “The Preva- lence of Illicit Drug and Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Discrepan- cies in Mandatory Reporting in Pinellas County, Florida.” The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 322 (Apr. 26, 1990), pp. 1202-06. Chasnoff, Ira J. and others, “Cocaine Use in Pregnancy: Perinatal Mor- bidity and Mortality.” Neurotoxicology and Teratology (1987), pp. 291- 93. Dixon, SuzanneD., M.D., “Effects of Transplacental Exposure to Cocaine and Methamphetamine on the Neonate.” The Western Journal of Medicine (Apr. 1989), pp. 436-42. Dixon, SuzanneD., M.D., and Raul Bejar, M.D., “Echoencephalographic Findings in NeonatesAssociated with Maternal Cocaineand Methamphetamine Use: Incidence and Clinical Correlates.” The Journal of Pediatrics (Nov. 1989), pp. 770-78. Escamilla-Mondanaro, Josette, “Women: Pregnancy, Children and Addiction.” Journal of Psychedelic Drugs (Jan.-Mar. 1977), pp. 59-67. Page 46 GAO/IfRD-90-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Bibliography Feig, Laura, “Drug Exposed Infants and Children: Service Needs and Policy Questions.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(Jan. 29,199O). Finnegan, Loretta P., M.D., Executive Director of Family Center, Pro- fessor of Pediatrics and Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Drugs, and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Services,United States Senate,February 51990. Frank, Deborah A., M.D., and others, “Cocaine Use During Pregnancy: Prevalence and Correlates.” Pediatrics Vol. 82, No. 6 (Dec. 1988), pp. 888-96. Graham, Karen, and others, “Determination of Gestational Cocaine Exposure by Hair Analysis.” Journal of the American Medical Associa- tion (Dec. 15, 1989);pp. 3328-30. Herskowitz, Julie and others, SubstanceAbuse and Family Violence, Part I, Identification of Drug and Alcohol UsageDuring Child Abuse Investigations in Boston. MassachusettsDepartment of Social Services (June, 1989). Howard, Judy, M.D., “Developmental Patterns for Infants Prenatally Exposed to Drugs.” California Legislative Ways and MeansCommittee, Perinatal SubstanceAbuse Educational Forum, February 23,1989. Howard, Judy, M.D., and others, “The Development of Young Children of Substance-AbusingParents: Insights from SevenYears of Interven- tion and Research.” Zero to Three (June 1989), pp. 8-12. Hurt, Hallum, M.D., “Medical Controversies in Evaluation and Manage- ment of Cocaine-ExposedInfants.” Special Currents: CocaineBabies (1989), pp. 3-4. Kaltenbach, Karol, and Loretta P. Finnegan, “Developmental Outcome of Children Born to Methadone Maintained Women: A Review of Longitu- dinal Studies.” Neurobehavioral Toxicology and Teratology (Aug. 1984), pp. 271-76. Page 40 GAO/~S&138 Drug-Exposed Infants Bibliography -“Perinatal and Developmental Outcomeof Infants Exposed to Methadone In Utero.” Neurotoxicology and Teratology (1987), pp. 31 l- 13. Little, Bertis B., M.A., Ph.D., and others, “Methamphetamine Abuse During Pregnancy: Outcome and Fetal Effects.” Obstetrics and Gyne- cology (Oct. 1988), pp. 641-44. -“Cocaine Abuse During Pregnancy: Maternal and Fetal Implica- tions.” Obstetrics and Gynecology (Feb. 1989), pp. 167-60. -“Cocaine Use in Pregnant Women in a Large Public Hospital.” American Journal of Perinatology (July 1988), pp. 206-07. Littlejohn, Marilyn, “Cocaine/Crack Babies: Health Problems Treatment, and Prevention.” CongressionalResearchService, Library of Congress (Oct. 30, 1989). Munns, Joyce Matthews, Ph.D., “The Youngest of the Homeless:Charac- teristics of Hospital Boarder Babies in Five Cities.” Child Welfare Leagueof America (Aug. 2,1989). Novick, Emily R., M.P.P., “Crack Addiction in Pregnant Women and Infants: An Analysis of the Problem, Model Programs and ProposedLeg- islation in California.” (May 1989). Oro, Amy S. and SuzanneD. Dixon, M.D., “Perinatal Cocaineand Methamphetamine Exposure: Maternal and Neonatal Correlates.” The Journal of Pediatrics (Oct. 1987), pp. 671-77. Osterloh, John D., M.D., M.S., and Belle L. Lee, Pharm.D., “Urine Drug Screeningin Mothers and Newborns.” American Journal of Diseaseof Children (July 1989), pp. 791-93. Ostrea, Enrique M., Jr,, M.D., ResearchGrant, “A Prospective Study of the Prevalenceof Drug Abuse Among Pregnant Women. Its Impact on Perinatal Morbidity and Mortality and on the Infant Mortality Rate in Detroit.” (July 13, 1989) (preliminary report). Wilson, Geraldine S., “Clinical Studies of Infants and Children Exposed Prenatally to Heroin.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (June 30, 1989), pp. 183-94. Page 47 GAO/IIlUMO-138 Drug-Exposed Infants Bibliography Wilson, Geraldine S. and others, “The Development of Preschool Chil- dren of Heroin-Addicted Mothers: A Controlled Study.” Pediatrics (Jan. 1979), pp. 136-41. Zelson,Carl, M.D., and others, “Neonatal Narcotic Addiction: 10 Year Observation,” Pediatrics (Aug. 1971), 178-89. Zuckerman, Barry, M.D., and others, “Effects of Maternal Marijuana and CocaineUse on Fetal Growth.” The New England Journal of Medicine (Mar. 23, 1989), pp. 762-68. -“Validity of Self-Reporting of Marijuana and CocaineUse Among Pregnant Adolescents.” The Journal of Pediatrics (Nov. 1989), pp. 812- 15. Page 43 GAO/HBD-W-138 Drug-Exposed Infants ‘I’t4tq,hout? 202-275-624 1
Drug-Exposed Infants: A Generation at Risk
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-28.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)