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ReNew Mississippi aims to intercept child abuse by fighting drug abuse

JACKSON, MISS– ReNew Mississippi, co-chaired by First Lady Deborah Bryant and Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam, has set forth to address child abuse in Mississippi by intercepting drug abuse first. 

Currently, Mississippi has the highest neonatal abstinence rates (rates of infants born addicted to drugs because of a pregnant mother’s drug use) in the East South Central division of the United States, with 16.2 per 1,000 hospital births showing signs of complications and withdrawals in the newborn, according to the US Census Division.

“There’s a direct link between the rise of drug use in Mississippi and the increase of child abuse,” said Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam.

But ReNew Mississippi has a plan.

“We intercept these mothers before birth, get them treatment and off drugs before the child is born,” said Justice Beam. “So that child can go home with that mother.”

Beam said in the past, the child would be taken from the mother at birth if there were signs of drug abuse during the pregnancy.

“And that’s just another trauma for her (the mother),” said Beam.

Parents addicted to drugs will sometimes go to extreme lengths to get their drugs.

“These parents will sell their children,” said First Lady Bryant. “That brings the human trafficking element into it.”

Every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering with symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Maternal opioid abuse and the rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome has steadily increased in the last decade.  In 2012, an estimated 21,732 infants were born with withdrawal symptoms.

The impacts of drug addiction in infants last well beyond their formative years. Medical care costs for drug-exposed infants for the first 18 years of life can range up to $750,000. Over the course of that child’s lifetime, the costs of medical care could rise to 1 million dollars.

In 2009, total U.S. hospital costs for drug-exposed infants reached $732,000. In 2012, that number was up to $1.5 billion.

ReNew Mississippi released a seven step strategic plan for addressing this growing problem in the state.

  1. System of identifying families
  2. Early access to substance use treatment and other services
  3. Access to family-centered and parent-child focused services
  4. Improved management of recovery and compliance
  5. Improved responses to participant behavior
  6. Increased judicial or administrative oversight
  7. Collaborative approach across staff, child-and-family agencies, hospitals, parent-child therapy agencies, and child development therapies


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