KALISPELL, Mont. — Sen. Steve Daines visited Kalispell Regional Healthcare Wednesday to discuss the work the hospital’s NICU is doing with drug-addicted babies.
"They're on the front lines of this meth epidemic in Montana,” said Daines. “We must do all that we can to combat this crisis in Montana."
In just the last four years KRH received three federal grants for their neonatal department.
The most recent bought them an artificial baby called Super Tory that can simulate what a drug baby would be like. The doctors can use the baby to train on how to treat drug-addicted babies.
"Helping those moms one mom at a time, one baby at a time get on to the right path,” Daines told NBC Montana. “Sometimes breaking generational chains here of addiction to get on to a better path."
Through those grants, the hospital said it is able to teach and help on a large scale. They are using telehealth units that allow neonatal specialists to help other doctors over the internet by using a camera to show the baby. The unit can be found in 10 critical access hospitals across the state reaching as far as Glasgow and as close as Whitefish.
Hospital staff said they have utilized the unit about eight times a year.
"We have a large state, very rural in nature, and we can take the professionalism, the expertise that's here, for example, in Kalispell and project that across the far reaches of Montana," Daines said.
KRH health officials said they have been seeing more drug-addicted babies and moms, but they said this could have to do with early screening. Health officials said they are working to screen early so they can stop the addiction before the baby is born.
Daines pointed out that the drug crisis is growing.
"These seizures in meth in Montana double year over year, so this is across every corner of our state," he said.
Hospital workers said they see all backgrounds in drug users. It's a problem without a clear solution, but these people tell you starting at birth is one way to make a difference.