News Release

Reitman Foundation funds pilot study of treatments for neonatal abstinence syndrome

Kessler Foundation researchers examine outcomes of neonates who undergo treatment at Children's Specialized Hospital for withdrawal from prenatal exposure to opioids

Grant and Award Announcement

Kessler Foundation

Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH

image: Dr. Botticello, senior research scientist in the Center for Outcomes and Assessment Research at Kessler Foundation, focuses on advancing the science of the social determinants of health, understanding neighborhood effects on health, investigating geographic variation in disability and chronic conditions, and assessing long-term psychosocial outcomes for people with disabilities. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation/Jody Banks

East Hanover, NJ. March 3, 2020. Researchers at Kessler Foundation will collaborate with Children's Specialized Hospital to study the outcomes of neonates treated for opioid withdrawal in the Hospital's Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Program. With a one-year pilot grant from the Reitman Foundation, John O'Neill, PhD, and Amanda Botticello, PhD, MPH, will examine the outcomes of the NAS Program, which is based on a combination of pharmacotherapy and environmental supports. Dr. O'Neill is director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research and Dr. Botticello is senior research scientist in the Center for Outcomes and Assessment Research at Kessler Foundation.

The few existing studies of children with NAS suggest they are at increased risk for infections, sleep disturbances, and vision, motor, cognitive and behavioral problems. Detailing the infants' outcomes post withdrawal will enable researchers to understand the factors that influence the severity of NAS and responses to the treatment protocol. This information will enable clinicians at Children's Specialized Hospital to evaluate the effects of NAS treatment practices and tailor their interventions to achieve optimal outcomes for these vulnerable infants.

"We need to look beyond the immediacy of this public health crisis," said Liz Lowenstein at the Reitman Foundation, "and find ways to minimize the impact of fetal opioid exposure. Given the productive collaboration of Kessler Foundation and Children's Specialized, we anticipate the discovery of effective interventions that help affected children achieve their full potential."

Drs. O'Neill and Botticello expect their findings will be of interest to the larger community of pediatric rehabilitation researchers. "The prevalence of drug addiction has resulted in a large population of newborns born with the symptoms of acute withdrawal that define neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS," stated Dr. Botticello. "The paucity of research studies hinders our understanding of the implications of NAS on long-term child development and well-being," she added. "This pilot study is an important step toward the larger longitudinal studies we need to ensure the development of effective strategies for the treatment of NAS and the long-term health complications that may arise for these children."


Children's Specialized Hospital

Children's Specialized Hospital is the nation's leading provider of inpatient and outpatient care for children from birth to 21 years of age facing special health challenges--from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. At 13 different New Jersey locations, our pediatric specialists partner with families to make our many innovative therapies and medical treatments more personalized and effective so each child can reach their full potential.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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