Senators McConnell and Casey Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Maternal Addiction and Infant Opioid Withdrawal
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced legislation to address the rise of prenatal opioid abuse and infants suffering from opioid withdrawal.
The bipartisan Protecting Our Infants Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop recommendations for preventing and treating prenatal opioid abuse and for treating infants born dependent on opioids. The measure would also direct the HHS Secretary to lead a review of departmental planning and coordination and develop a strategy to address research and program gaps, which is a recommendation that was made in a Government Accountability Office report last month. Finally, the bill would encourage the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work with states to help them improved surveillance and data collection activities regarding this problem.
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.
“Researchers estimate that more than one baby every hour is now born dependent on drugs and suffering from withdrawal. This statistic is just heart-breaking. These children are the most innocent members of our society, and we have to protect them,” Senator McConnell said. “No piece of legislation could ever solve this challenge overnight. But the bipartisan Protecting Our Infants Act can help move our country in the right direction. I want to thank Senator Casey for his leadership on this issue and I look forward to working with him to advance this important measure through Congress.”
“Children suffering from opioid withdrawal and their families go through an unimaginable struggle but there’s far too little known about how to prevent and treat this condition,” Senator Casey said. “This bipartisan legislation is an important step in our efforts to help these vulnerable children and their families. I appreciate the opportunity to work with Senator McConnell in a bipartisan fashion on this important priority.”
Identical bipartisan legislation was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Katherine Clark (MA-5) and Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15).
The Protecting Our Infants Act is supported by the March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the Protecting Our Infants Act:
McConnell Unveils Bipartisan Bill to Combat Maternal Addiction and Infant Opioid Withdrawal
‘Nationwide, we’ve seen a staggering 300-percent increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000. But in Kentucky, we saw similar numbers grow by an almost unbelievable 3,000 percent.’
Next month, I look forward to hosting our nation’s newest Drug Czar at a forum in Covington, Kentucky. It’s a forum that will allow Director Botticelli to hear firsthand accounts of the devastating impact of one of America’s most significant public health challenges, one that continues to hit my state particularly hard: The growing epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse.
It’s hard to overstate the challenge.
Drug overdoses, largely driven by painkillers, now claim more Kentucky lives than car accidents.
And rising heroin overdose rates now account for nearly a third of all drug overdose deaths in Kentucky.
While statistics like these are devastating enough, they hardly paint the full picture either.
Because they don’t account for the thousands of innocent children born dependent on opioids.
The numbers are hard to hear.
Nationwide, we’ve seen a staggering 300-percent increase in the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal since 2000. But in Kentucky, we saw similar numbers grow by an almost unbelievable 3,000 percent.
It’s a tragic challenge. I say that especially as the father of three daughters.
But it’s a challenge we can do something about.
And if Washington enacts the bipartisan Protecting Our Infants Act I’m reintroducing today, along with Senator Casey, it’s a challenge we will do something about.
This bipartisan bill would do a number of important things.
It would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop recommendations: both for preventing prenatal opioid abuse, and for treating infants born dependent on opioids.
It would direct the Secretary to help develop a strategy to address research and program gaps: a step recommended by a Government Accountability Office report released just last month.
And it would encourage the Director of the CDC to work with states and help improve surveillance and data collection activities in this area.
No piece of legislation could ever solve this challenge overnight. But the bipartisan Protecting Our Infants Act can help move our country in the right direction.
That’s why it’s supported by the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
And that’s why an identical bill will also be introduced in the House of Representatives today, by Congresswoman Katherine Clark, of Massachusetts, and Congressman Steve Stivers, of Ohio.
I commend these Representatives, and Senator Casey, for their leadership on this issue.
I look forward to working with them to advance this important measure through Congress.
And I look forward to discussing it with Director Botticelli during his visit to Kentucky as well.
Related Issues: Defending Life, Opioid Abuse