CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is the first state to receive approval from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to offer Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome treatment services.

This allows facilities like Lily’s Place in Huntington to be recognized by West Virginia Medicaid as a NAS Treatment Center. Lily’s Place treats babies born addicted to drugs.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Medical Services received the approval Tuesday. Commissioner Cindy Beane said this allows for more NAS treatment centers in the state to help fight the opioid epidemic.

“What this does is it establishes a mechanism, so if somebody would want to open up a Lily’s Place in Morgantown or another place that you have a lot of high risk birth and a lot of births with NAS, then they can do that,” she said. “I do think we’ll have others come to us.”

Beane said West Virginia is taking the lead on this.

“Other states are already inquiring and calling us — how did you do it? — because this of course is the nature of the epidemic. We’re not the only state that needs centers like this,” she said.

There are more drug-addicted babies in West Virginia compared to any other state, Beane said.

“Our rates of NAS babies is because of the opioid epidemic,” she said. “So this is definitely a need for West Virginia.”

Within the first weeks of their lives, newborns with NAS experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, vomiting, seizures, excessive crying and sensitivity to stimuli (loud noises, bright lights, bright colors).

Under the program, NAS babies would receive the following services to treat those withdrawal symptoms:

  • Comprehensive assessment to determine a plan of care
  • Low or reduced stimulus environment, slow introduction to sensory stimulation (both site and sound)
  • Pharmaceutical Withdrawal Management, with tapering protocol as referenced by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Monitoring Withdrawal Objective Assessment, at least twice, daily
  • Non-Pharmacological Interventions, including but not limited to: Therapeutic swaddling, vestibular stimulation/vertical rocking, C-position, head-to-toe movements, clapping, exercise to relieve gas discomfort and newborn massage

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) released a statement Tuesday in connection with West Virginia’s approval.

“The opioid epidemic is a crisis that doesn’t discriminate, and it is destroying families, communities, and lives across the country. Some of the most tragic examples of the drug epidemic’s devastating consequences are the babies who are exposed to opioids before they’re even born. No state has felt the effects of this epidemic like West Virginia has, and I am so happy that our state is now able to provide NAS services through the Medicaid program. I also am hopeful this development will help more families access critical treatment services for infants suffering from the symptoms of withdrawal.”

“Over the years, I’ve worked to provide these infants the help they need, to shed light on critical treatment services like those in use at Lily’s Place in Huntington, and to provide other children access to these services. I will continue fighting for the opioid epidemic’s youngest victims and for all others affected by this national crisis.”

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), who helped in the creation of Lily’s Place, applauded the decision in a press release:

“Thanks to this decision, West Virginia will be able to help even more newborns and continue to lead the way in innovating models of care for NAS. Now, the House and Senate need to take up my legislation, the CRIB Act, to provide certainty for NAS treatment centers across the nation to ensure all newborns have a chance at a healthy start at life.”

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