WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced on Monday, November 16, 2015 that their legislation to address the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and infants suffering from opioid withdrawal was approved by the House of Representatives. The bipartisanProtecting Our Infants Act now goes to the President for his signature.
This measure directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a departmental review to identify gaps in research and any duplication, overlap or gaps in prevention and treatment programs related to prenatal opioid abuse and infants born with opioid withdrawal. It also instructs the HHS Secretary to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids. Finally, this measure encourages the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states and help improve their public health response to this epidemic.
Nationwide, there has been a staggering 300-percent increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000. In Kentucky, that number grew by an almost 3,000 percent -- from 29 infants identified as suffering from drug withdrawal annually to more than 950, and experts believe there are even more cases that go unreported. In Pennsylvania, the number of addicted births covered by Medicaid rose from 883 in 2010 to 1,122 in 2012, according to the Department of Public Welfare.
“Tragically, prescription drug abuse and heroin use has skyrocketed in Kentucky and in other states across the nation, and people, no matter their demographic, socio-economic status, age or gender, are dying. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of this crisis is the increasing number of infants who are born dependent on opioids in the form of prescription painkillers and heroin. These infants are the most innocent among us, and for them to start off life dependent on drugs and suffering is intolerable,” Senator McConnell said. “I am encouraged that Congress has approved the legislation I sponsored with Senator Casey, and I urge the President to quickly sign it into law.”
“Sending this legislation to the President’s desk is an important step forward for vulnerable children who are born dependent on opioids,” Senator Casey said. “Our nation is experiencing a crisis in terms of opioid addiction. It’s incumbent upon members of Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to solve this challenge. I’m pleased that this legislation will now become law and look forward to continuing to press for solutions to this challenge.”
Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-05) and Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15) introduced the measure in the House of Representatives. The Protecting Our Infants Act is supported by the March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.