The number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, NAS, in Knox County decreased by 18 percent between 2015 and 2016 but according to the Metro Drug Coalition, there's still much work to be done.

Medical providers can now partner with MDC and sign an agreement to take extra steps to make sure a pregnant woman doesn't give birth to a baby born drug exposed.

In 2016, there were 991 babies born drug dependent in Tennessee, 97 of those were born in Knox County.

"I think people's perception is it's all bad moms and bad women that are having these babies, and that's just not the case," MDC's Executive Director Karen Pershing said.

Pershing, who is passionate about NAS, said it is completely preventable.

"We should be doing everything that we can wherever these women are, whichever providers' office they touch needs to be educated and they need to be cautious who they are prescribing these medications for," Pershing said.

As part of the partnership, there is an agreement medical providers can sign that lays out steps for the provider to follow. Those steps include annually assessing the patient's risk for addiction, reviewing past addiction history and providing a pregnancy test to any woman who could become pregnant before prescribing any opioids.

"It's a huge step in the right direction," Evan Sexton with Journey Pure said.

Sexton is one of the providers who agreed to participate.

"It's not going to end drug abuse, but it can get the things that can be regulated, it gives an opportunity for that," Sexton said.

He said the goal is for providers to stop and think before prescribing opioids.

"It gives steps to beg more questions downstream and it is a safeguard so it's not a silver bullet that will eradicate the issue, but it gives a process for places that are doing treatment, places that are providing medical care or social services or legal services a guideline to follow," Sexton said.

These partners noted NAS is completely preventable and these extra precautions will hopefully help Tennessee mothers give birth to drug-free babies.

The agreement is open to all medical professionals and providers. For more information, click here.