TN jail birth control program seeks to spare infants from painful drug withdrawal

(WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee leads the nation in infants who experience painful drug withdrawals because the mother was taking drugs during her pregnancy.

It’s called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS.

Dr. Jessica Young is a physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Women’s Clinic with 60 patients, all of whom are pregnant and addicted to drugs.

“At any given time, there are probably upwards of 4,000 women in the state of Tennessee who need treatment. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough treatment programs for all these women. At our program we have a waiting list of up about eight weeks which is just way too long in pregnancy,” said Dr. Young.

As a weapon against NAS, through the Tennessee Department of Health, several counties are now offering women birth control implants or injections as they leave jail.

They are called voluntary long-term reversible contraceptives.

“If you look at the effectiveness compared to other forms of family planning like the birth control pill, they are far more effective and really the message for this is you get it and you forget it,” said Dr. Michael Warren, Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness with the Tennessee Department of Health.

It is paid for, in part, through state funds and federal grants, including the Title V Maternal and Child Heath Block Grant or the Title X Family Planning Grant.

The following 26 counties have started offering long-term birth control to incarcerated women. They prevent pregnancy for 3 to 5 years.

Anderson
Blount
Claiborne
Cocke
Cumberland
Franklin
Grainger
Greene
Grundy
Hamblen
Hardin
Jefferson
Johnson
Lawrence
Maury
Monroe
Overton
Putnam
Roane
Scott
Sevier
Unicoi
Union
Washington
Wayne
White

Sevier County reported a 92 percent drop in NAS nine months after implementing the program.

Dr. Young told News 2 she likes the program, but also shared some of her concerns.

“The caveat to that is it’s very important that those women are not being coerced into getting those methods and their education is without pressure without strings attached,” said Dr. Young.

The CDC has an illustration of various family planning methods and rates of effectiveness available online.

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