Stivers introduces bill to help newborns suffering from opiate dependency

A new bipartisan bill introduced Thursday will help hospitals diagnose and treat newborn babies they believe are suffering from an opiate dependency.

The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 was introduced by Steve Stivers (R-OH), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

Stivers said the country is “under siege from an opiate addiction epidemic,” and drug overdoses are at all-time highs in many states including Ohio.

“This is why I sponsored this important legislation, which would help decrease the number of babies born addicted to drugs,” Stivers said. “As a father of two young children I understand just how serious this issue is—it not only affects families, but also our communities, states and the nation as a whole. I am excited Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Sen. Casey have joined in this effort to combat NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome).”

NAS has been increasing over the years due to a rise in the abuse of opiates. Newborns with NAS experience several symptoms if they were exposed to drugs such as methadone, prescription painkillers or heroin before being born. Once the babies are born they begin to suffer withdrawal after the drugs are no longer used.

The bill is a targeted effort to make NAS a national priority. It includes a plan to bring together the appropriate experts and data to develop a coordinated response. It also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to create a best practices handbook for dealing with NAS, as well as designate an agency to collect NAS data.

Clark said there isn’t anything “political or partisan” about newborns suffering from drug withdrawal.

“The partners we’ve made across the aisle, across chambers, and with doctors throughout the country are ready to fight for the children and families impacted by this epidemic, and we’re pushing Congress to take action,” Clark said. “The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 is a common sense approach to determining how to best care for these newborns while also addressing the enormous cost of that care.”