Clark Bill to Help Opioid-Exposed Infants Passes Senate

Washington, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s legislation to help newborns exposed to opioids passed in the U.S. Senate. Clark’s legislation was introduced in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

The Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 is the first federal legislation to help newborns suffering from opioid exposure. Babies born with the condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome are hospitalized for weeks and can suffer from seizures, respiratory impairments, tremors, fever, and difficulty feeding. Because there is no standardized diagnosis and treatment for these newborns, hospitals across the country have begun piecing together their own treatments in response to the surge of NAS births.

“Congress has a moral obligation to make the opioid crisis a national priority,” said Clark. “Newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal are the youngest victims of our battle with this epidemic, and Congress working together to pass our bill is a significant step forward in ensuring that thousands of infants and moms get the care they need.”

Research published in the Journal of Perinatology found that the number of infants suffering from withdrawal grew nearly five-fold from 2000 to 2012. On average, the data showed, an infant is born suffering from opioid dependence every 25 minutes in the United States. These births cost an estimated $1.5 billion, 80 percent of which is paid for with Medicaid dollars. These costs have doubled since 2009.

The U.S. House version of the Protecting Our Infants Act passed unanimously in September.