Growing number of East Tennessee babies born addicted to drugs

Growing number of East Tennessee babies born addicted to drugs

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Caylin doesn't know many words, but she does understand what she's being asked and she can follow certain directions. Caylin doesn't know many words, but she does understand what she's being asked and she can follow certain directions.
"Just living day to day, going to my meetings, taking care of my little girl, going to church, just living for once, not chasing something all the time, chasing that next high," Courtney Cross said. "Just living day to day, going to my meetings, taking care of my little girl, going to church, just living for once, not chasing something all the time, chasing that next high," Courtney Cross said.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A growing number of babies are being born addicted to drugs in East Tennessee.

"We are seeing over the last year about eight or 10 new babies a month with narcotic addiction. That's the primary reason they're here (in the neonatal intensive care unit)," said Dr. John Buchheit, of East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

"It's a significant number of babies," Dr. Buchheit added. "I think those of us who take care of babies would say it really has reached epidemic proportions."

Courtney Cross, 26, is getting a new start for herself and her 20-month-old daughter, Caylin, at Child and Family Tennessee's Care Campus and its Great Starts program.

It's one of only eight facilities in the country where addicted mothers can live with their children while getting treatment and taking classes on parenting, self esteem and relationships, among other classes offered.

Cross says she was addicted to opiates. "Hydrocodones, percocets, and when oxy came out I started eating those and then I eventually went on to snorting them," she said.

Cross knew when she went from wanting opiates to needing them, she was in trouble. Then she found out she was pregnant.

"When I was pregnant, I used and it destroyed me. I was miserable," she remembered. "I knew it was wrong but my addiction wouldn't let me quit. It caused me to use even more because I knew what I was doing was wrong. I hated myself for it because I couldn't quit."

Caylin was born with a number of problems. Her intestines were on the outside of her body. Surgery repaired that defect. She also had pulmonary hypertension disorder, and had to detox. She was in the neonatal intensive care unit for three months, and nearly died.

"They had her on medications in the hospital, had to detox her down to methadone and weaned her off of that. I got to take her home, but I was still using," Cross said.

She was, in fact, one of many in East Tennessee frequently following the oxy pipeline to Florida, taking her baby daughter along for the ride.

"She was actually with me when I was going to Florida, subjecting her to a lot of trips she didn't need to be on, " Cross said, "but thinking I was a good mom because she was with me."

Cross hit rock bottom when she had to serve six months in jail for pawning her stepfather's belongings to pay for her drug habit. Her grandparents took care of Caylin.

While in jail, Cross heard about the Great Starts Program at Child and Family Tennessee. It's where she and her daughter have been ever since her release.

Caylin has made great strides since coming to Care Campus.

"When Caylin came to us, she was barely sitting up on her own and not crawling. She was, I think, a year old exactly so she should have, at that point, if you're thinking about typical child development, taking her first steps," said Great Starts Nursery Director Allison Lowe.

"So we immediately got her in touch with Tennessee's Early Intervention System. A physical therapist came to work with her and she is still in physical therapy," Lowe said.

Caylin doesn't know many words, but she does understand what she's being asked and she can follow certain directions.

Courtney Cross is a mother who cannot change her past, but she can work toward a better future for her and her child.

"Just living day to day, going to my meetings, taking care of my little girl, going to church, just living for once, not chasing something all the time, chasing that next high," Cross said.

For more information on Child and Family Tennessee's Great Starts program, call 865-246-1100.

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