U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (D –MA) this week won passage of the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, legislation that takes proactive steps to help hospitals diagnose and treat newborns suffering from opiate dependency.
“Among the many innocent victims of our opiate crisis in Ohio and around the country are the thousands of babies who are born addicted to drugs every year,” Stivers said. “Through this bill and a coordinated response from government, health care and drug treatment professionals, we hope to reverse this dangerous trend and get these families on the path to full recovery.”
Over the years there has been a significant rise in the abuse of opiates, which has led to an alarming increase of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). NAS is a collection of symptoms that infants can experience as a result of prenatal exposure to drugs such as heroin, methadone, and prescription painkillers. Upon being born, this exposure to the drug ends and the babies begin to suffer from withdrawal.
The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 is a targeted effort to make NAS a national priority by bringing together the appropriate experts and data to develop a coordinated response. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a best practices handbook for dealing with NAS and designate an agency to collect NAS data.
Recent data shows that a record number of babies in the United States are born addicted to drugs. There are tremendous expenses that come with treating drug-related illnesses. In 2011, Ohio alone spent more than $70 million in treatment of these conditions, including nearly 19,000 days in the hospital, with 1,649 patient admissions—which totals almost five daily.
A report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that the number of newborns diagnosed with NAS tripled between 2000 and 2009. Ohio experienced a more than 600 percent increase in NAS rates between 2004 and 2011.