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House Passes Comprehensive Bill to Address Opioid Crisis that Includes Bipartisan Murphy Measure to Help Babies Born Addicted to Opioids

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Washington, September 28, 2018 | Brad Howard (202-550-6134) | comments

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a comprehensive bill to address the opioid epidemic, and it includes a provision spearheaded by U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Tom Garrett, R-Va., to ensure states have effective plans in place to protect infants who are innocent victims of the opioid epidemic.  The provision creates new federal grants to help Florida and other states develop policies and procedures so drug-dependent babies receive proper care at the hospital and the necessary family, community, and medical support once they are discharged.  The comprehensive bill passed by the House, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, is expected to be voted on by the Senate next week and then sent to the President to be signed into law 

“The number of our fellow Americans—and fellow Floridians—affected by the opioid epidemic is staggering, and it’s important to remember that behind every abstract statistic lies a shattered human life, a brokenhearted family, a distraught community, and a spiritually and economically diminished nation,” said Murphy.  “The epidemic has taken a terrible toll on the most vulnerable members of our society—infants born addicted to opioids through no fault of their own.  I’m so proud that my bipartisan measure to ensure these babies receive the care and support they need was included in the comprehensive opioids package passed by the House today and is on track to become law.”

There are an estimated 2.1 million Americans addicted to opioids, typically to prescription painkillers.  Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy are at risk of an opioid-withdrawal condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  A baby is born with this condition every 15 minutes in the United States.  In 2016, over 4,000 babies in Florida were born addicted to opioids.

Under a federal law called the Child Abuse and Prevention Act, states are required to develop a “plan of safe care” to help infants exposed to substance abuse.  However, a 2015 investigation indicated that only a few states have plans in place that fulfill this requirement.  As a result, too many infants are exposed to substance abuse, and they and their families are not receiving the comprehensive support they need.

In June, the U.S. House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Murphy and Rep. Garrett—H.R. 5890, the Assisting States’ Implementation of the Plans of Safe Care Act­—that would help Florida and other states develop evidence-based policies and procedures to properly care for babies born dependent on drugs.  Murphy subsequently urged congressional leaders to include this bill in the comprehensive opioids legislation that was being put together by House and Senate leaders, and this effort was successful.

Under the provision (Section 7065) included in the comprehensive bill approved by the House today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would make grants to states and territories so they can improve their efforts to ensure the well-being of infants affected by substance abuse.  Grant funding would be used by states to assist child health and welfare agencies, social services agencies, substance use disorder treatment agencies, hospitals, and medical professionals develop, update, implement, and monitor plans of safe care.  Every state who applies would receive a base amount of $500,000, plus an additional amount based on the population of the state.

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