Too often, the tiniest victims of the drug scourge go unnoticed in the mayhem of crime, punishment and shattered lives. They are the premature, developmentally challenged and, in some cases, stillborn children born to women who have lost the war against chemical dependency.
A welcome bright spot in this depressing scenario is the early success of the Center for Addiction and Pregnancy at the Francis Scott Key Medical Center. The overwhelming majority of the program's first graduates -- 48 babies since May -- were born hale and healthy. All but 10 were average or above average in birth weight. Only five had need of the neonatal intensive care that keeps alive fully one quarter of the babies born to drug-abusing women. The cost of caring for those in intensive care -- about $8,640 per child -- was a fraction of the $24,750 such treatment would have cost outside the program.
This cheering news affirms what health experts have known for some time: Dealing with pregnant, chemically dependent women requires an integrated approach marrying drug treatment, prenatal care and psychiatric help. The center was designed with this goal in mind, providing a wide range of social and medical services intended not only to bring healthy children into the world, but also to improve the world into which they are born.