UPMC hospital seeks volunteers to cuddle infants born to opioid addicts

Opioid addiction is a growing crisis in the U.S., and some hospitals have noted an increase in babies born who were exposed to opiates before birth. A UPMC hospital in Farrell, Pa., has started a new program to take care of these babies who need specialized care.

According to New Castle News, UPMC Horizon-Shenango Valley added a Level II neonatal intensive care unit in May 2015 and started a program in June where volunteers cuddle these infants. The program is part of a multi-faceted approach to help drug-addicted mothers get help for themselves and their babies.

Babies born with opiates in their system are prone to loud, high-pitched crying, sweating and stomach problems, symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome. These infants need more consoling than other infants, according to the report. The volunteers help provide that time and attention when the family or hospital staff cannot.

"The cuddlers only seek to help the mothers and families of these babies and do not judge their situation," Mary Beth McLaughlin, CNO and vice president of patient care services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh told the News.

Volunteers at the UPMC hospital have to be at least 21 and need to pass a screening process before being onboarded and trained in the program. The hospital currently has five volunteer cuddlers.

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