Improved care for drug-exposed infants in Washington

Babies exposed to drugs in the womb face unique health challenges including withdrawal, tremors, and seizures. Caregivers recognize the benefits of specialized care that can be provided outside a traditional hospital setting. Under legislation sponsored by Kent Senators Joe Fain and Karen Keiser, which was signed into law Wednesday, Washington will develop new practices and alternatives modeled off of the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent.

“PICC is a wonderful resource for our most vulnerable newborns and the Department of Health will be a good partner to ensure PICC remains a strong provider of care in our region,” said cosponsor of the bill Keiser, D-Des Moines. “I am so pleased we were able to ensure that PICC will continue to help drug affected newborns have access to a healthy start in life.”

Every year more than 12,000 infants are born in Washington who have been exposed to opiates, methamphetamines and other drugs from their mother during pregnancy.

“Babies exposed to drugs need and deserve specialized care that can greatly improve early development and long-term quality of life,” said Fain, R-Auburn, who sponsored the legislation. “I am so grateful to have PICC in our community and to be able to share the great example they have set with the rest of the state.”

PICC’s executive director Barb Drennen and director of nursing Kelly DenHeyer visited Olympia during the legislative session to testify in support of the measure and advocate for the bill before lawmakers.

Care facilities providing pediatric transitional care to drug exposed infants must now be licensed through the state Department of Health. Each facility must demonstrate they can provide necessary services to infants from birth through age one, with 24-hour care following referral by a hospital or the state Department of Social and Health Services.

The Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent is the only facility of this type current operating in Washington.