CEDAR RAPIDS — A new program for families in Linn and surrounding counties will help children who have been exposed to drugs in the home by providing medical and developmental exams to prevent and treat any short- and long-term effects.
Dr. Regina Butteris with St. Luke’s Child Protection Center said the Child Assessment Referral and Early intervention — CARE — program will be the first one in Eastern Iowa.
The center received a one-year grant through a private donation from Wayne and Nan Kocourek, so it’s a free service to patients who don’t have insurance.
Butteris said other medical providers, the Iowa Department of Human Services and social service agencies will make referrals to CARE for children from birth to age 17 who have tested positive for drugs. Other children in the home also are eligible for the program, even if they haven’t had a positive drug screen.
“The program focuses on children but it’s really for the entire family,” said Butteris, medical director of CARE. “We follow through with the kids after the initial exam and make sure the family is supported, and then assess their needs for other resources in the community.”
There were 159 children in Linn County who tested positive for drugs in 2016 and 54 from Johnson, Benton, Jones, Buchanan and Delaware counties, Butteris said.
Each child accepted into the program will have a medical exam, much like ones with a primary care doctor. She will gather a detailed history of the child during the exam and then she and the CARE coordinator, Katie Burrell, will follow up with a developmental assessment to determine any problems and provide further care.
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This doesn’t replace regular exams for the child, Butteris noted. The CARE team would be in contact with the child’s primary care doctor.
Infants who have neonatal drug exposure will be followed every three months for their first year, then at 15 and 18 months, and then once a year until age 5. Further follow-up will be determined by the CARE team.
The program also provides transportation for families to get to appointments, which can be a challenge for some, she added.
Butteris said research shows that exposure to drugs can result in delays in development, such as with motor skills, language and behavior. Some children can have difficulties with focus and concentration. Others are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder because of effects from drug exposure, she said.
“There’s no data to help us understand how much exposure affects a child,” Butteris said. “There are many factors, like what was the drug, age of child or fetus. Every child is different.”
The program started taking referrals Nov. 1 and has had 14, but the team has seen only two children so far. Butteris said families have been open to the program. Her hope is that once the community sees the value of the program, the numbers will increase.
The CARE program will offer appointments weekdays at St. Luke’s Child Protection Center, 1095 N. Center Point Rd. in Hiawatha. For more information, call (319)-369-7908.
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