Babies born exposed/affected to substances in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

Parental substance use disorder is often a causative factor in families being involved in the child protective system. The child's basic needs for food and safety may not be met in households where substance abuse disorder is present. There may be complications at birth and later in life for the child born drug exposed/affected. 

This data includes babies born exposed or affected by either illicit or prescribed medications. For example, pregnant women may be prescribed Methadone or Buprenorphine to treat their addictions to other substances. For the new born baby, treatment of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can be inpatient or outpatient and can involve either pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic treatments.

What the data shows
The number of babies born drug exposed/affected peaked in 2016 and declined in 2017, 2018 and 2019. However, in 2020 the number born drug exposed/affected went back up to the level of 2018 with 90 births. In 2021, the number dipped to 808 births, which is the lowest number since 2012. In 2021, statewide, the percent of babies born substance exposed/affected was 6.7% or one in fifteen births.

In the latest year, 2021, the number of babies born drug exposed/affected exceeded 10% in 5 of Maine's 16 counties.  The counties with the highest rate of babies born drug affected were:  Androscoggin, 15%, Washington, 14.2%, Aroostook, 13.6%, Piscataquis, 12.1% and Oxford, 10.7%. By contrast, York, Cumberland, Franklin, Sagadahoc and Hancock all had rates below 4% or one in twenty-five births.

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Definitions: This indicator reflects the number of infants born in Maine where a healthcare provider reported to the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) that there was reasonable cause to suspect the baby may be either exposed or affected by illegal substance abuse, demonstrating withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal exposure (illicit or prescribed), or have fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This measure potentially excludes instances where the infant was exposed to substances and did not show withdrawal symptoms after birth, instances where the birth of an infant affected by substances was not reported to OCFS, and any other instances in which there were discrepancies between reporters when interpreting the law. The numerator is the number of babies born drug affected/exposed and the denominator is the number of births in a calendar year in Maine.

Data Source: Maine Office of Child and Family Services, (OCFS) of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the number of  babies born drug exposed/affected in a year. The State of Maine Office of Vital Statistics for the number of births in the same calendar year. Note that the number of births by county in 2021 is still preliminary and will be finalized during 2022.

Footnotes: Updated February 2022