Monday, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was in Tampa leading a meeting on the state Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns.
The task force, comprised of 15 members, was formed this year to address the alarming problem in Florida of drug abuse among expectant mothers and how to care for babies suffering from neonatal withdrawal syndrome.
David Wilkins, secretary of the state Department of Children and Families said, “About 80 percent of the cases in the Tampa Bay area that involve removing children from their homes are related to substance abuse.” That’s also true for about 60 percent of the cases statewide.
“Substance abuse undeniably is a part of the child protection system and foster care system. Treating addiction in families helps keep families together. As a society, we cannot afford to have another goal,” said Dianne Clarke, executive director and COO of Operation PAR.
Operation PAR is a Pinellas County-based substance abuse treatment provider known nationally as a leader in successfully treating women who are pregnant and opiate-dependent with methadone to aid in the delivery of healthy, non-addicted infants.
Gathered in a room at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, the task force discussed how to best treat women with drug addiction during pregnancy along with prevention and helping to promote community treatment services.
Task force members agreed that it is not enough to further promote drug abuse awareness and prevention—treatment for mothers and babies is critical. Yet, Bondi maintains, “If we can prevent this, it’s going to save so much money and so much heartache.”
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