Drug-Exposed Infants:

A Generation at Risk

HRD-90-138: Published: Jun 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the growing number of infants born to mothers using drugs, focusing on the: (1) extent of the problem; (2) health effects and medical costs; (3) impact of the problem on health and welfare systems; and (4) availability of drug treatment and prenatal care to drug-addicted pregnant women.

GAO found that: (1) estimates of the number of infants exposed to cocaine annually ranged from 100,000 to 375,000; (2) differences in hospitals' efforts to identify drug-exposed infants resulted in a wide range of estimates; (3) drug-exposed infants were more likely than non-exposed infants to suffer from medical problems and, in some cases, required costly medical care; (4) because of the uncertainty surrounding the long-term consequences of prenatal drug exposure, it could not identify future costs of care for such children; (5) 1,200 of the 4,000 drug-exposed infants at 10 hospitals were placed in foster care, and the cost of 1 year of foster care for those infants was about $7.2 million; (6) from 1986 to 1989, estimated nationwide foster care demand increased 29 percent, raising concerns about whether the system could adequately respond by supplying foster parents, providing quality foster homes, and ensuring supportive health and social services; (7) drug treatment services for drug-addicted pregnant women were insufficient or inadequate to meet demand; (8) many barriers for treatment existed for pregnant mothers, including the lack of child care services and the fear of criminal prosecution; and (9) prenatal care could help prevent or at least ameliorate many of the problems and costs associated with the births of drug-exposed infants.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The ADAMHA Reorganization Act, Public Law 102-321, addressed this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the current federal resource commitment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, it should consider increasing funding of the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant program specifically for substance-abuse treatment for pregnant women.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The ADAMHA Reorganization Act, Public Law 102-321, addresses this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the current federal resource commitment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, it should consider creating a new categorical grant to provide comprehensive prenatal care and drug treatment services to substance-abusing pregnant women.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The ADAMHA Reorganization Act, Public Law 102-321, addressed this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the current federal resource commitment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, it should consider increasing the ADMS Women's Set-Aside from 10 percent to a higher percentage to ensure that expanded treatment services under the block grant are targeted specifically to substance-abusing pregnant women.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The ADAMHA Reorganization Act, Public Law 102-321, addressed this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the current federal resource commitment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, it should consider increasing the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services (ADMS) Block Grant to the states to provide more federal support for drug treatment.

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The ADAMHA Reorganization Act, Public Law 102-321, addresses this recommendation.

    Matter: If Congress decides to expand the current federal resource commitment to treatment for drug-addicted pregnant women, it should consider requiring states to include substance-abuse treatment as part of the package of services available to pregnant women under Medicaid.

 

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