PROVIDENCE – More babies are being born with exposure to opioids in Rhode Island, the annual KIDS COUNT Factbook has found.
The book, released Monday, said in 2014, 97 babies were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a rate of 92 per 10,000 births, an increase from 76 babies in 2013 and more than double the rate in 2006 of 37.2.
The report said 88 percent of those babies were born to white mothers, and 85 percent had Medicaid coverage. Thirty-four percent of the babies born with NAS lived in the core cities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket, and 66 percent lived in the remainder of the state.
“This did come very much on our radar screen last year because of the increase,” KIDS Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant said in an interview before the book’s release. “The state has had this on its radar for a couple of years because of the increases. … It’s disturbing to see; despite a lot of efforts going on to do outreach and prevention, we still saw an increase between this year and last year’s factbook.”
She said the 22nd annual report, which provides data on 71 major issues affecting children ranging from family, and community and economic well-being to health, safety and education, is important because it gives policymakers information so that they can make the best decisions for children.
It was to be formally unveiled Monday at a policy breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Providence-Warwick. Five hundred people, including Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, were expected to attend.
“Some indicators are showing improvement. That gives us momentum,” Bryant said. “In other areas, we hope it will be an alarm bell and encourage people across the community to work even harder to turn those numbers around.”
Rhode Island continues to perform well regarding access to health insurance, as only 3.3 percent of children under 18 were uninsured in 2014. The Ocean State ranks seventh best in the country in this category. The report also said access to dental care is improving, as 94 percent of Rhode Island children had access to dental insurance in 2014, an increase from 73 percent in 2001 and 62 percent in 1990.
In addition, the proportion of births to teen mothers fell from 10 percent to 5 percent between 2007 and 2015. Bryant said Rhode Island ranks seventh best in the country for its teen birth rate.
She also pointed out that Rhode Island ranks best in the nation for its teen death rate, which, in 2014 was 22 per 100,000 children ages 15 to 19. That represented a decrease from 34 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2013. The state also ranked fourth best in the nation for the child death rate, which was 12 deaths per 100,000 children ages 1 to 14 in 2014.
“Those indicators, I think, are related to our work to ensure children had access to regular preventive health care, and we’re getting the word out to children and families on prevention strategies. We’d like to have an indicator with no child death and no teen deaths, but at least in compared with the rest of the country we’re doing well,” Bryant said.
The report also found:
Child population continues to decline. Between 2000 and 2014, the state’s child population fell 14 percent to 212,555 from 247,822. The state had the fifth-lowest birth rate in the nation.
As of September, there were 4,970 Rhode Island children under age 5 who were born to a mother who did not speak English.
In 2013, there were 2,744 hospitalizations of children with a primary diagnosis of mental disorder at Bradley, Butler, Hasbro Children’s, Newport and Memorial hospitals, representing a 53 percent increase from 2003.
The child abuse and neglect rate was 13.8 percent per 1,000 children last year, down from a rate of 14.5 per 1,000 children in 2014.
In Rhode Island in 2015, there were 195 indicated allegations (confirmed claims) of child sexual abuse, an increase from 160 in 2014.
Educational outcomes are improving, as most children in the 2015-2016 school year were enrolled in full-day kindergarten – 88 percent – and the four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2015 was 83 percent, an improvement from 81 percent for the Class of 2014 and 70 percent for the Class of 2007.
“We are seeing some good signs,” Bryant said, citing the decrease in the unemployment rate, which fell to 5.4 percent in February, a full percentage point lower than it was a year earlier. She said the hope is that translates into parents getting jobs that can lift children out of poverty. She said a “brighter employment picture” paired with targeted education and training programs hopefully can help lower the number of children living in poverty.
She said approximately 41,000 children, or nearly 20 percent, live in poverty in Rhode Island. In 2015, the federal poverty threshold was $19,096 for a family of three and $24,036 for a family of four with two children.
“Children in poverty, especially those who experience poverty in early childhood and for extended periods, are more likely to have physical and behavioral health problems, experience difficulty in school, become teen parents and earn less or be unemployed as adults,” the report stated.