Barletta Bill Protecting Opiate-Addicted Babies Unanimously Passes House

May 11, 2016
Press Release
Bipartisan Bill Addresses Epidemic: Baby Born Addicted Every 25 Minutes in U.S.

Click here or on image for video of Rep. Barletta arguing in favor

of his bill to protect babies born addicted to opiates.

WASHINGTON – In a rare unanimous vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation from Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) protecting opioid-addicted newborns and their caregivers.  The Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843), which Barletta authored with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), requires that states which receive federal funds for child protective services comply with federal law and enact certain guidelines for the welfare of children exposed to opioids.  The category of opioids includes a variety of pain medications or other drugs, such as heroin.  The legislation does not seek to persecute the mothers of the children, so as not to dissuade parents from allowing their newborns to access appropriate care.  The bill passed the House by a bipartisan, unanimous vote of 421-to-0.

“Every 25 minutes in America, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. It’s an eye-opening statistic, and the more you consider what it really means, the more tragic it becomes,” Barletta said.  “Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world having already been exposed to drugs.  Every 25 minutes, a newborn has to pay the price for something he or she was defenseless against.  Every 25 minutes, another infant becomes a victim of the national opioid crisis.  These are the victims this bill will help protect.”

“Through a number of commonsense measures, this bill strengthens protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure, improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families, and ensures states will have best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe,” Barletta said.  “These are commonsense reforms we should all embrace.  By working together and advancing this legislation, we help ensure these children, mothers, and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve.”

This legislation would:

  • Require the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).
  • Strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans.
  • Improve accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their care.
  • Provide states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
  • Encourage the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.

CAPTA was enacted in 1974 to coordinate federal efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.  The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems.  In order to receive funds under CAPTA, states are required to assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have implemented certain child welfare policies.  Such policies include requiring health care providers to notify state child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure, as well as requiring the development of a “safe care plan” to protect these newborns and keep them and their caregivers healthy.  A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place, resulting in shocking and deadly consequences.

Barletta’s entire floor statement, as prepared for delivery, is as follows:

            Thank you, Mister Speaker. I rise today in strong support of H.R. 4843, the Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Every 25 minutes in America, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. It’s an eye-opening statistic, and the more you consider what it really means, the more tragic it becomes.

Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world having already been exposed to drugs.

Every 25 minutes, a newborn has to pay the price for something he or she was defenseless against.

Every 25 minutes, another infant becomes a victim of the national opioid crisis.

These are the victims this bill will help protect.

Federal policies—including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, or CAPTA—have long supported state efforts to identify, assess, and treat children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems if they assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have put in place certain child welfare policies. For example, requiring health care providers to notify child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure and requiring the development of something known as a “safe care plan” to keep these newborns and their caregivers healthy and safe.

Last year, a Reuters investigation examined the care that infants receive when they are born to parents struggling with opioid addiction. The investigation detailed the heartbreaking consequences those infants had to endure—consequences like suffering through the physical pain of withdrawal, and in the most shocking cases, terrible deaths.

It’s hard to imagine that stories like these could be any more tragic. Unfortunately, they are—because they should have, and in many cases, could have been prevented. As Reuters revealed, HHS is providing federal funds to states that do not have the necessary child welfare policies in place. In short: the law is not being properly followed and enforced, and some of our most vulnerable children and families are slipping through the cracks.

That’s why Representative Clark and I worked with a number of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and introduced the legislation before us today. This bill requires HHS to better ensure states are meeting their legal responsibilities when it comes to preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.

Through a number of commonsense measures, it strengthens protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure, improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families, and ensures states will have best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.

As the House works this week to fight the opioid epidemic destroying communities and lives across the country, these are commonsense reforms we should all embrace. By working together and advancing this legislation, we can help ensure these children, mothers, and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve.

I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Closing

Mister Speaker, in closing, I want to reiterate the purpose and importance of this legislation.

No government—federal or state—should be allowed to skirt its responsibilities on the taxpayers’ dime, especially when those responsibilities involve the health and safety of children. We’ve seen what can happen when they do, and none of us should be okay with allowing those kinds of consequences to continue. Making sure they don’t, is a responsibility we all share.

In the end, this bill isn’t about pointing fingers or placing blame. It’s about the kids who need help—not only the infants affected by the opioid crisis, but all the victims of child abuse and neglect. This bill is about ensuring we are working together to strengthen protections for our country’s most vulnerable children and families. 

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I yield the remainder of my time.

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