Bexar Co. leads in state with most babies born with opioid withdrawal, triggering consistent funding

300 to 400 babies are born each year in Bexar County with opioid withdrawal

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - For the 10 years newborn opioid withdrawal has been tracked, Bexar County has been No. 1 in the state, with as many cases as Harris and Tarrant counties combined, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Grant money is currently funneling in for research on the issue, which translates directly to families in recovery.

"I was a meth addict for about 14 years and a heroin addict for about six. Me and my husband moved to San Antonio to get sober and it did not quite work out for us. We relapsed and ended up on the streets. I was pregnant and we were living downtown in abandoned buildings," Victoria Webster said.

It was almost eight months ago that she delivered her baby Aryan, who was born with opioid withdrawal.

Aryan is one of about 300 to 400 babies born with opioid withdrawal in Bexar County every year.

"I had my daughter at University (Hospital), and I knew I wasn't going to be able to take her home. I didn't have anywhere to go and I didn't want to be on drugs anymore," Webster said.

She said she's not surprised by the local statistics.

"Being homeless in San Antonio and seeing the epidemic of opioids and just drugs in general, it's real out there. It's really killing people," she said.

The epidemic has caught the attention of the entire nation, and mass amounts of federal funding have trickled to states in need. For Texas, Bexar County is a huge focus.

"With our research funding, it's been ongoing, and over the past four years, I think we've received over $2 million to study neonatal abstinence syndrome," said Lisa Cleveland, associate professor of nursing at UT Health San Antonio.

Cleveland is currently facilitating several state-funded research projects on the subject.

"One is working with moms and babies at six months, looking at how they interact together. We also have a research study looking at opioid maternal mortality. It's the leading cause of maternal mortality in Texas," Cleveland said.

She and her nursing students also partner with Casa Mia, an outpatient home where recently sober moms are either living with or reuniting with their babies born with opioid withdrawal.

Crosspoint Inc. helped open Casa Mia and helps pull funding from Texas Department of State Health Service and other local nonprofits to keep the program running.

Webster is living at Casa Mia while Aryan is in foster care. She and her husband, Chris, spend weekly visits with Aryan at Casa Mia.

With their sobriety progress, those visits will increase, potentially resulting in full custody.

For now, they're taking one baby step at a time.

"Being free from the grips of addiction. Having the family I know I'm capable of having and raising my daughter in a good environment. There's no way I could ever go back," Webster said.

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