The State Department of Children and Family Services reports that the number of babies born in Louisiana who are exposed to alcohol and drugs while in the womb has tripled from 2008 to 2016.

Assistant Secretary for Child Welfare Rhenda Hodnett says last year, that number reached nearly 1,700.

“Marijuana is the most common but we certainly have seen an increase in opioid use and that contributes to the overall increase in substance abuse newborns.”

Hodnett says DCFS works to push prevention, awareness, and intervention for children born addicted to drugs. She says caseworkers are assigned to help in the areas with the biggest problems.

“Baton Rouge, Alexandra, Lafayette and New Orleans, those are the areas where our numbers are the highest so we provide special training for those workers, we have special intervention.”

Hodnett says they are partnering with the Children’s Trust Fund to prevent mothers with substance abuse problems from using while pregnant. She says an awareness campaign has also been initiated.

“We just recently released a guide, a tool kit, around substance exposed newborns. It has resources for professionals, as well as, the general public.”