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Opioid epidemic: West Virginia desperately trying to recover



Huntington, West Virginia, is unusual: It only serves babies and toddlers who were exposed to drugs in the womb.

That's because at Cabell Huntington Hospital, the largest hospital in the city, 1 out of 5 babies is born 19659002] The babies at the child care center in age from 6 weeks to 2 years, and sometimes cry for hours on end. Teachers struggle to calm them down.

"They're just inconsolable," said Suzi Brodof, executive director of the center. "It's not just crying. It's a high pitched wailing."

"It's exceptionally difficult to hear them cry," added Janie Fuller-Phelps, the director of the center.

It gets worse: The babies sometimes have twitching and tremors ̵

1; even seizures.

 A caretaker tends to 7-week-old Oliveah.
When the center opened in June, staff from the hospital visited to share what works best for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). These babies are super sensitive, they are advised. Keep the lights dim. No bright colors on the walls.

"These children have different needs than other children," Brodof said.

That's why some babies with NAS

"Yes, they actually get kicked out." It happens frequently, "said Lisa Ertl, interim director of the Department of Early Care and Education at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources ,

 Janie Fuller-Phelps holds 4-month-old Huck.

The center in Huntington, run by River Valley Child Development Services, is funded by the state and currently has eight children.

Six of the children were exposed to opioids while in the womb and two were exposed to methamphetamines, according to umbilical cord testing.

Even after just a few weeks, the teachers can see changes in the children. Huck, a 4-month-old baby boy, has fewer crying spells, and now smiles and giggles at his teachers.

straighten his arms and legs.

 A daycare teacher cares for 11-month old twins. [196909023] A daycare teacher cares for 11-month old twins.

The center's oldest children are 11-month-old twins, a boy and a girl. At first, the girl did not want anyone to hold her.

The twins' mother, and most of the other mothers at River Valley's center, live at Hope Project for Women & Children, a drug rehab center in Huntington.

"The moms are not villains," Brodof said.

The center's goal is to give the children the best possible care early on, so they're less likely to die for their children and their children. " to face problems when they get to school. Babies exposed to opioids prenatally are more likely to suffer later in life as a result of motor and cognitive impairments and ADHD, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"The damage of prenatal opiate exposure is debilitating and long."

 Jacob, Gabriel and Andrianna Riling on a walk with their 70-year-old grandparents, Beverly and Andrew Riling.

Beverly Riling knows this instinctively.

Her 11-year-old granddaughter, Andrianna Riling, was born with NAS, and in October she filed a lawsuit against several opioid factories.

"After she came home from the hospital, she shook and cried constantly," Riling remembers. "Nothing calmed down."

According to the lawsuit, Andrianna "is a victim of the opioid crisis that has ravaged Wyoming County, West Virginia, the epicenter of the national opioid crisis, causing immense suffering to those infants born addicted to

Riling and her husband, Andrew, both 70, have custody of Andrianna and her two older brothers, Jacob and Gabriel, age 16 and 14. The suit asks for

Andrianna's lawyer, Booth Goodwin, and his colleagues are screening about 200 extra children for more possible lawsuits.

Raising a family was the last thing the Rilings live in Wyoming County, the rural area where the Rilings live, there are just over 20,000 residents.

Among them, 409 are children in living room and foster care, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Center.

Back to the child care center, Brodof is trying to raise money so she can

"We know they need that extra special care, that cuddling that love," she said. "And with that we know we'll make a difference for you."


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