Last year more than 650 people died from opioid overdoses in the St. Louis region, more than four times the number in 2007. The epidemic is also measured in delivery rooms of Missouri hospitals, which have seen more than a fivefold increase in the number of infants born with symptoms of opioid withdrawal in the past 10 years, according to the Missouri Hospital Association, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The number of children going into foster care in Missouri began to climb in 2012, after years of a general decline. Last year 7,505 children entered foster care. That is a leap from 6,432 in 2013.
The state lacks data to tie the spike in foster care directly to opioids. Data from the St. Louis Family Court show the link. Of the 46 children who have entered foster care in the city this year, 17 — or 39 percent — were due to drugs, either involving drug exposure to newborns or issues of abuse or neglect because of substance abuse by parents. One case involved the fatal shooting death of a 6-year-old girl by a younger sibling while the mother and her boyfriend slept after smoking drugs, according to court records. The three living siblings, ages 3, 4 and 9, went into foster care.