A measure designed to protect babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy was introduced in the U.S. House, Reuters reports.
A similar bill moved to the Senate floor recently.
The House bill would require federal and state governments to better monitor the health and safety of babies born dependent on opioids. States would be required to report the number of infants identified each year as born drug-dependent, and the number for whom plans of safe care are developed.
“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” bill sponsor Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said in a statement. “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”
A Reuters investigation last year found 110 cases of children who were exposed to opioids while in the womb and who later died preventable deaths at home. No more than nine states comply with a 2003 law that calls on hospitals to alert social workers whenever a baby is born dependent on drugs, Reuters found.
Earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said the department is taking a more proactive approach to enforcing a federal law that requires states to report and protect drug-dependent babies. Speaking at a congressional committee hearing, Burwell said, “Specific actions are being taken where we have found there is wrongdoing.” She did not provide details of the plan.