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