State Task Force targets newborns born addicted to drugs

TAMPA - Since 2007, the numbers of babies born addicted to prescription drugs in Florida has tripled.

That number as of two years ago, has risen to at least 1,500 who have to be detoxed at birth.

The number in the Bay Area is staggering.

Pinellas County ranks first in the state with babies born addicted, Hillsborough ranks 4th, and Pasco trails closely behind.

State Attorney General Pam Bondi says it's something that should never happen.

"They don't have the choice, and their mothers do. And these mothers have the choice not to take these drugs when they're pregnant," she said at a press conference held Friday morning.

Joined by State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong and representatives from the FDLE, the Florida Department of Children and Families, they announced their new campaign.

"Born Drug Free Florida" is the new statewide campaign to raise awareness among expecting mothers who use prescription drugs.

Dr. Armstrong says babies born addicted, have symptoms that are heartbreaking.

"You have this sense of total body pain coming into this world," Armstrong said.

At least 50 billboards, 18,000 radio and TV spots, and internet banners are going up all over the state.

Their message is simple: get expecting mothers caught up on information, and to have them tell their doctors any and all prescription drugs they are taking, whether it's illegal.

Bondi says the program is not intended to rip families apart, or to get people to uncover their addictions for prosecution.

"Because we want to start early and educate them. We don't want these babies to be born and taken away from their moms," she said.

The program has already rolled out in parts of the state and has a budget of $300,000.

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