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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They’re the most innocent victims of the opioid epidemic – babies born to addicted mothers.

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Now, something new has just opened in our area to give them a fighting chance. It’s the first of its kind in the entire country.

Babies born withdrawing from opiates, due to drugs circulating in their systems from mom, can be a challenge.

The baby may need to stay in the hospital for a week, but the mother goes home. The separation can be a problem in this time important to bonding.

For that reason, Magee has created a new unit called the Parent Partnership Unit.

“A bassinet for baby, a bed for mom, there’s a television, a refrigerator, there’s a safe for belongings,” said Patty Genday, the executive director of Women’s Services at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Here, mothers can stay while their babies get the care and attention they need.

“She is expected to stay here the entire time with the baby. If she needs to leave for certain reasons, we would coordinate that with our staff. But we want her to be actively involved in the care of her baby, to attend all the educational classes we have to help her with her transition into motherhood, and hopefully help babies transition into this world,” said Genday.

At Magee, about 7 percent of its newborns, or around 600 a year, are born with symptoms of withdrawal. This can include high-pitched crying, tight muscles, nausea and vomiting. They can also have a low birth weight and trouble feeding.

The hope is that the soothing presence of their mothers will keep the babies from needing as much medicine to treat their withdrawal symptoms.

To be able to use the special unit, the mother must be enrolled in a medication assisted-treatment program.

Because the program is unique, there are no other medical centers with outcomes for comparison. But the staff will be tracking several measures.

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“What the baby needs during the time here, the length of stay, the mother’s level of satisfaction, and the mother’s compliance with care after delivery,” said Genday. “This is a pilot program. Initially, we are going to look at it for one year, and look at our results, and determine what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Dr. Maria Simbra