Drug-addicted newborns receiving help in Phoenix

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jul 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 12:50:25-04

We hear about addiction daily, but not like this. 

"It's heart-wrenching to see a baby withdrawal," Tara Sundem, a neonatal nurse practitioner, said. "Once you see it you will never get it out of your mind."

She's helping so many addicted newborns that she decided to open a rehab for babies, which is only the third of its kind in the country. 

"They scream, they don't cry, it's a high pitched scream, they arch, their tone is just frantic," she said. "They have tummy aches, diarrhea, the worse diaper rashes you can ever imagine."

They're the tiniest victims of the opioid crisis, and they need more attention than a neonatal intensive care unit can offer.

"As soon as their pacifier falls out of their mouth, someone needs to be there," she said. "Immediately, not in a minute."

She's partnering with other Valley organizations, like Hope Women's Center.

"We're just seeing more and more women coming in asking for help."

They're helping addicted mothers before the birth which will allow them to recover with their child.

"Being able to get in early on with an organization like Tara's so they know that once that baby is born they can still be with that baby and they are both going through rehab is just a fantastic opportunity," Tammy Abernethy, CEO of Hope Women's Center, said. 

Sundem is still looking for a location but hopes within a year she'll be able to give the Valley's most vulnerable babies a more peaceful and less painful start to life.

"If it were my baby or my grandbaby, I would want better."