WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), announced today that their legislation to address the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and infants suffering from opioid withdrawal passed the U.S. Senate. Senator Casey, a tireless advocate for the welfare of all children, introduced the Protecting Our Infants Act earlier this year with Senator McConnell. The legislation is now moving to the House of Representatives for consideration.
“I am pleased that the Senate passed this bill without opposition. Over the past thirty years, there has been a substantial increase in heroin and prescription drug abuse, with tragic consequences for infants and newborns,” said Sen. Casey. “These children and their families go through an unimaginable struggle, but there’s far too little known about how to treat newborn withdrawal. The Protecting Our Infants Act will help hospitals and medical professionals better understand how to address the rising tide of infants with this condition.”
Researchers estimate that nationwide, one baby every hour is born dependent on drugs and suffering from withdrawal. Nationwide, there has been a staggering 300-percent increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000. In Pennsylvania, the number of addicted births covered by Medicaid rose from 883 in 2010 to 1,122 in 2012, according to the State Department of Welfare. One hospital in Pennsylvania has seen the rate of these births increase from 4.3 percent for all of 2012 to 16.4 percent for the first three months of 2015 alone.
This bipartisan bill would direct the Department 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 would direct HHS to work with stakeholders to develop recommendations both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids. Finally, this measure would encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with states and help improve their public health response to this epidemic.
The Protecting Our Infants Act is supported by the March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.