The Indiana State Department of Health marked five years of its Labor of Love summit, an annual event aimed at reducing the state’s infant mortality rate. The rate of infants dying before their first birthday has risen steadily since the campaign began, mainly because of substance use disorders.
When the initiative kicked off in 2012, 556 babies lost their life – last year that number was 623. Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box says any progress the state has made has been overshadowed.
“I think we’ve made some really good inroads but unfortunately we’ve added on top of that our substance use disorder and opioid epidemic,” says Box.
Last year, 26 Indiana hospitals started drug testing pregnant women. Box says health providers should be verbally screening all expectant mothers.
“I’m not just talking about opioids or heroin or marijuana, I’m talking alcohol and smoking because you know we also have an issue with that in the state of Indiana,” says Box.
Box says pregnancy can be an ideal time for women to engage in treatment.
Indiana’s drug czar, Jim McClelland, says infant mortality is just another example of the epidemic’s impact.
“One thing leads to another and another and so that’s why it’s so important to get to root causes as much as we can,” says McClelland.
Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the nation.